The 9 Signs of a Toxic Workplace: A Quick Checklist - EmployeeConnect
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The 9 Signs of a Toxic Workplace: A Quick Checklist

How do you feel when you step into your workplace every morning? Do you feel forces undermining your positive attitude, compromising your ability to perform at your best? Or would you rather not turn up? This ever-present destructive environment is like a disease infecting everyone at all levels. This is known as toxic work culture and exposes you to behaviours that could compromise you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

When it comes to toxic workplaces, many people have faced an abusive manager or have been bullied. In addition, these employees regularly experience the behaviour of ridicule, gaslighting, and backhanded comments.

Toxicity in the workplace is a growing issue, with many employees experiencing burnout, especially throughout the covid pandemic. This is exacerbated by leaders failing to recognise the typical signs of a toxic workplace. Probably because they, too, are victims of a toxic workplace.

Unfortunately, when left undetected, workplace toxicity is infectious, which will compromise the integrity of your team and eventually the organisational competitive advantage. Therefore, it is critical to recognise the issues but initiate corrective action promptly.

Whilst some of the behaviours are easily recognised, others are much more subtle, woven into the daily routine of conversation. Typical descriptors in day-to-day conversation include:

  • We have a high turnover
  • I don’t trust my manager
  • All we do is gossip
  • People don’t enjoy coming to work anymore
  • All I hear is I hate my job
  • No one is happy

The good news is that there are several measurable indicators of signs of toxic workplace you can look for to determine if there is a problem within your workplace to action.

The 9 Signs of a Toxic Workplace 

1. High attrition Rate

One of the most apparent signals of a toxic work environment is high attrition. A high attrition rate is a leading indicator of low employee morale, engagement, and fractured leadership. Therefore, it is imperative you investigate why an employee decides to exit the business. One of the best places to explore is the carefully curated exit interview with a net promote score question. Crafted well, exit surveys dive into the reasons why an employee leaves. It unearths patterns grouped in pillars that paint a picture of a toxic workplace.

 2. Ambiguous goals  

It’s measurable goals that move your company forward. When everyone is on the same page working towards a common goal, the atmosphere is positive, healthy, and productive. Employees know what they need to contribute to the big picture, which keeps them productive and happy. Robust goal tracking solutions offer a clear line into every employee’s goals, creating transparency. A toxic workplace does not have clear goals. When goals are not clear, employees lose focus on the big picture with waning engagement.

3. No Feedback

Regardless of the type of organisation, you are working for, ongoing feedback is critical. If the feedback remains positive, your employees will be motivated to give their best. In addition, they will feel safe and secure in an environment that translates to confidence, engagement & productivity. Alternatively, if the feedback is negative, it will have a deleterious effect.

4. No employee recognition

A great company culture is built on a shared vision, values, and goals. When employees don’t feel engaged in those three elements, they tend to stray and cultivate negative sentiments. This is where recognition helps. When employee recognition is absent, it impacts the quality and quantity of work. You can make a massive leap by introducing an employee recognition and rewards program. Continuous and honest recognition will reinforce a positive company build that can improve productivity, engagement, morale, and retention rates.

5. Results before people

While results are critical to running a sustainable business, when a company is absorbed in just numbers, these results come at the team’s expense. A great example is forcing your employees to follow overly ambitious work schedules to hit a goal. This results in unsustainable work-life balance and is a leading indicator of toxic work culture. If your employee’s wellbeing is ignored, it will result in waning engagement, burnout, and attrition.

6. Core Values Undefined

You will often see organisations boast their mission, vision and core values as a core foundation of their brand for all to see. They claim to nurture a community that upholds fundamental values, trust and teamwork, working towards a specific goal when the reality is different. This is often driven by marketing with a noticeable absence and direction from the executive team or HR. From the outside, everyone appears to be working to the best of their abilities but often has no real idea what they are working towards.

7. Top-Down Decision Making 

A key indicator of toxic work culture is that communication flows typically one way, more often from the top-down, with little or no employee feedback. This, therefore, is not conducive to a collaborative process. Furthermore, Employees often do not feel safe and secure asking questions for fear of being singled out for not understanding or the futility of their request.

8. Unclear roles 

When an employee knows their role, they know what their job entails and what is expected of them and what counts as a success or failure in their tasks. Unfortunately, a toxic workplace may not have clear goals, and employers will often choose to give additional tasks to their employees, usually without compensation, instead of hiring. This leads to people feeling lost in their career path, under-appreciated, and seeing diminished development, often leading to burnout.

9. Continuous conflict 

Working in a team often involves resolving conflict or differences. When those conflicts are constant or negative, it could be a leading indicator that the working environment has turned toxic. Conflict left unresolved or ignored results in retaliation. All that conflict can make it challenging for teams to collaborate and make it more difficult lt to move forward as one team working towards organisational goals.

Toxicity in the workplace is becoming or common than ever. The symptoms could be subtle and hidden, such as physical and emotional stress or clear, like increasing employee costs due to a drop in productivity and unscheduled leave. To combat this, we need strong leadership with a supportive network that values the employee. Employees who know they’re valued work harder. They stick around. They tell their friends. They are productive.

Byron Conway

Content Coordinator at EmployeeConnect