5 Signs of a Toxic Workplace – And What to Do If You’re In One

July 15, 2019

These are telltale signs that your workplace is indeed a toxic one.

We all get frustrated with our jobs sometimes. And no workplace is perfect; there are always things that could be improved.

But that doesn't mean the culture is outright toxic. Truly toxic workplaces are (relatively) rare, but if you are in one, best be going – soon.

How do you know if you are just having a bad day or if your workplace truly is a toxic one? In his LinkedIn Learning course Management Tips Weekly, Leadership Guru and Instructor Todd Dewett listed five signs that your workplace is, indeed, toxic:

In a video from his LinkedIn Learning series Management Tips Weekly, Instructor Todd Dewett lists five telltale signs of a toxic culture.

1. The head of the organization is either overly negative or narcissistic.

Leaders of organizations need to strike a balance of being both transparent and positive. The best leaders inspire their teams, without hiding the truth, and by making it about the employees or the vision, not themselves.

Toxic workplaces happen when the opposite happens. Either, the leader has lost faith in the organization and is overly negative. Or, they think the organization is there only to serve them, and makes everything about how great they are.

Either is a sign of a toxic workplace.

2. There is constant complaining among employees.

A classic sign of a toxic workplace. The workers there are always complaining, particularly about management not treating them fairly.

This can stem from a lot of causes. Either way, these are environments drenched in negativity.

3. There is no transparency.

Are decisions made out-of-the-blue, without consulting anyone? Are there a lot of secret meetings only a select few people are invited to?

All offices have some degree of surprises. But, if you are consistently surprised by decisions that happen at work, it’s a clear sign of no transparency – and a toxic culture.

4. Rules are enforced arbitrarily.

Is one person allowed to stroll in at 10 a.m., while everyone else is required to come in at 8? Are some people allowed to go to educational conferences, while others aren’t? Are some required to dress a certain way, while others aren’t?

“If you see no consistency in the application of rules at work, you might be facing a toxic environment,” Dewett said.

5. People are promoted based on relationships, not their performance.

Building off that point, what type of people are promoted within your organization? The very best people who have the most potential, or people who go fishing with the boss?

There’s some degree of politics at any organization. But, if it’s rampant, and going to a BBQ at a senior leader’s house is more important than doing great work, it’s a sign of a toxic culture.

What to Do if You Are an Employee in a Toxic Work Environment

Let’s say you are seeing at least two of these signs at your office. What should you do?

First off, unless you are the leader of the organization, recognize it’s not your fault. The culture is toxic, likely stemming from poor leadership.

You can try and change it by airing your concerns to management. If you are the leader of a team, you can work to create a great culture, at least among your group.

If the problem is truly systematic, you might not be able to change it. In that case, the best move is really to move on – because no matter what job you take at the organization or how much money you make, you still will be working in a toxic environment.

These LinkedIn Learning courses can help you land that next role:

Leaving a job is easier for some people than others. If you are forced to endure a toxic work environment for whatever reason, recognize it’s not you, it’s them; and focus on what you can control and doing a great job (as hard as that can be).

Todd Dewett’s course, Management Tips Weekly, is filled of short, actionable videos that can help you become a better leader.

Videos within the course cover: