We all have bad days at work, sometimes even bad weeks, and - from time to time - a really difficult month. In a good working environment the temporary nature of setbacks is easy to keep in mind, but when there's no light at the end of the tunnel it's worth knowing the signs of a workplace that does more bad than good for your wellbeing.
Gossiping and Cliques
Feeling a little socially uncomfortable in your first few days or weeks of work is completely normal. It's like being the new kid at school - you're trying to make a good impression, it feels wrong to show your weird and wacky side too soon, and you don't want to impose on already-formed friendships. In a healthy work environment, veteran employees should make you feel welcome straight away - whether it's inviting you to lunches or offering to show you around the office. If months or years into your job you find that you still don't fit in, or you over-hear constant bad-mouthing of other colleagues as if the office is a playground rather than a working environment, it's a red flag for a less than ideal place to be.
Bad leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it's micro-managing your every move, or a boss that's so hands-off you feel as if you could drop off the face of the earth without them noticing, poor leaderships trickles down to the self-worth and motivation of employees. A lack of clear direction, support, trust, and respect are enough to make anyone feel unwelcome - but with bags of great bosses out there it might be worth considering moving on to greener pastures.
Lack of Motivation
If you look around the office and find that no one seems engaged, that bright ideas and innovation are a thing of myth and legend, it's time to question whether this is a healthy environment in which to learn and thrive in. A lack of motivation can be sensed whether you're in the office or working remotely - if ideas to collaborate fall on deaf ears, if it takes constant reminders to get the ball rolling, or if you find people simply don't respond to emails and messages that need actioning, looking for a job that rewards enthusiasm could be a better bet.
A lack of clarity, mixed messaging, passive-aggression, being contacted at ungodly hours of the day and night are all signs of a company that doesn't know what it's doing. Not being listened to and feeling scared to speak up can be a quick sign that this isn't the right place for you.
Whether you're trying to climb the career ladder and finding a significant lack of promotions and pay rises, or find that more intrinsically rewarding opportunities like being asked to head a new project aren't materialising, doing the same old same old day in day out chips away at self-esteem and belief in oneself. If you feel as though you aren't trusted to progress, or that you're unable to head a project, it can be difficult not to internalise these feelings - which in turn can impact what you aspire to in future. Find somewhere that gives you the opportunities to be the best version of yourself.
One of the easiest measures of a toxic workplace is the number of staff legging it out the door. If you notice a suspiciously high number of people all bolting it at once, it's a good idea to look out for the other signs mentioned in this blog.
Non-Existent Work/Life Balance
One of the most important aspects of a workplace is its respect for employees' free time. Work is important, but so are our personal lives, and it can eat away at our mental and physical health to always be switched onto work mode. Whether it's calls on the weekend or being made to feel bad about taking breaks, try speaking to your manager about improving the balance. If the company seems resistant to changing its attitude, perhaps it's time to find one that respects you as a human being.
It can be easy to be in denial about a toxic workplace - admitting that we made a poor choice is difficult, but if you find yourself unhappy, burned out, and more irritable with each passing day, it's important for your mental and physical health, personal relationships, and self-esteem to better your 9-5 experience. Take a look at our tips on navigating a toxic workplace whilst you look for better opportunities, as well as signs of burnout.