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Chigg, Dip CBH, MNCH(reg)

I'm on a mission to empower you to rediscover resilience and balance, reignite your inner purpose, and guide you towards the life you aspire to lead. Drawing on over two decades in investment banking, I've mastered the art of navigating high-pressure environments with grace.

signs toxic work environment and how to fix them

13 Signs of a Toxic Work Environment and What to Do About It

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Content Roadmap

High Turnover Rate

A high level of staff turnover happens for a variety of reasons. The work may be seasonal, the work may be casual and may not pay that well. The type of role may be particularly difficult where there is a certain age demographic associated with it, but it requires certain physical or mental attributes. When those things do not apply, and there is an underlying tone of a high rate of staff turnover, for no apparent reason, work culture may just be the issue that ultimately drives people to move on.

  • Tip: A look on the website that provides past employees a voice may be one way to feel the mood temperature before joining, but of course, bear in mind, that aggrieved employees are more likely to shout about it than content ones. Always have a game plan and try and operate on a personal level that aligns with your hopes and aspirations.

Poor Communication

Particularly top-down work environments tend to follow more dictatorial management styles, some industries are more open to this style of management than others. Do you feel empowered as an employee, does your input count, how do decisions work out and get communicated, and are all decisions made centrally? When management asks the question ‘Are there any issues with this?’ nobody speaks up.

  • Tip: Do your homework, and add to the interview types of questions that will tease out the communication style in the department you will be working for. Look for subtle emotional signs in the interview room, when you say something close to a home truth, look for subtle eye contact signs between the 2 people interviewing you, or a subtle throwaway comment.

Micromanagement

Another one that you want to pick up earlier, at the interview stage, however, a firm that is keen to hire will most likely mask the shortcomings of the actual job. Establish expectations and show your capability to work independently while welcoming feedback, do not present as a threat and build trust. You are unlikely to ever take the top job by complaining to the person who currently has the top job.

  • Tip: Create a detailed plan of your tasks and share it with your manager, showing your initiative and organisation skills. Ask for periodic reviews instead of constant check-ins, and suggest setting specific milestones to demonstrate your progress and reliability.

Lack of Recognition

This usually creeps up on you after you have been in the post for a while. Welcome to being pigeonholed. You are the best person for the job we have no desire to do ourselves. Unacknowledged efforts will over the long term demoralise you. The question is, those in positions of power, adopt this approach as a subtle sign for you perhaps to move on. Sometimes engineered staff turnover does those managing teams a favour, then you get the exception. Employees are in post years if not over a decade Sidelined for all promotions. When things go really bad these employees are given affectionate labels to denote their seniority by the team and manager. The only issue, these labels are not recognised by HR or reflected in the paycheck.

  • Tip: Keep a record of your accomplishments and how they’ve positively impacted the team or company. Present this information during your performance review or in a professional manner to your manager. Depending on where things are on the job, your record of achievement may only be welcomed by yourself and close friends. Just remember your hopes, aspirations and objectives should extend beyond the current job

Gossip and Negativity

A workplace filled with rumours and gossip is a sign of a highly competitive workplace. As you rise to the ranks, the job becomes a very lonely place. Promotion is often seen within the industry but for a different company.

  • Tip: Lead by example by staying neutral and not participating in gossip. When encountering negativity, try to redirect the conversation to a more positive or constructive topic. If the environment becomes too toxic, a change is sometimes on the cards. A toxic work environment can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, as well as your productivity and job satisfaction.

Bullying and harassment:

Any form of bullying or harassment is unacceptable and can lead to severe emotional distress. For those, which hopefully is most of us, who have not experienced bullying in the workplace it severely impacts your ability to do your job. In this situation, you are most likely to bring the strains and stresses of the job home with you.

Bullying in the workplace is likely to be at an emotional level and is unlikely to gather much support from those around, who are probably just grateful they are not in the firing line.

The psychology of workplace bullying involves complex interactions between the bully, the victim, the bystanders, and the organizational culture. Understanding the psychological underpinnings can help in addressing and preventing bullying behaviour. Here are key aspects:

Bully’s Psychology

  • Power Dynamics: Bullies often seek to exert control or dominance over others. This behaviour may stem from a desire for power, or authority, or to mask their insecurities.
  • Lack of Empathy: A reduced capacity for empathy allows bullies to disregard the feelings and well-being of their victims, making it easier to justify their actions to themselves.
  • Personal Insecurities: Some bullies project their feelings of inadequacy or insecurity onto others as a defensive mechanism. By belittling someone else, they aim to feel superior.
  • Environmental Reinforcement: In workplaces where aggressive behaviour is tolerated or indirectly rewarded, bullying can be seen as a viable way to achieve goals.

Victim’s Psychology

  • Reduced Self-Esteem: Repeated bullying can lead to diminished self-confidence and self-worth in victims, affecting their professional and personal lives.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Victims often experience increased stress, anxiety, and even depression, which can impact their work performance and physical health.
  • Isolation: Bullying can lead to social isolation at work, as victims may withdraw in an attempt to avoid further harassment.
  • Learned Helplessness: In severe cases, victims might develop learned helplessness, feeling powerless to change their situation, which can hinder their ability to seek help or report the abuse.

Bystanders’ Psychology

  • Fear of Retaliation: Bystanders may fear becoming targets themselves if they speak up or intervene, leading to a culture of silence.
  • Normalisation: Over time, witnessing repeated bullying can lead to its normalization, where it’s viewed as just part of the workplace environment.

Organisational Culture

  • Toxic Environments: A work culture that implicitly condones or ignores bullying behaviours can exacerbate the problem, creating a cycle that’s difficult to break.
  • Lack of Policies: Insufficient anti-bullying policies and enforcement mechanisms can leave employees feeling unprotected and discourage reporting.

Advice: This is a big ticket item, and needs advice on the specific dynamics of your particular situation. Taking tips from this post, that may have material impact would be irresponsible. Seek advice! Doing nothing is not an option

Lack of autonomy:

If you are not given the freedom to make decisions or exercise your skills, it can lead to frustration and stagnation. The question is, is this something that has slowly crept up on you? Again this could be a subtle sign from those above, for you to move on, even though you are quite content to stay. Start reading the mood music.

Advice: Communicate your desire for more autonomy and seek opportunities to take on new projects or responsibilities. Build trust with your manager by consistently delivering high-quality work. If this does not work, and there is no shift, even for minor project roles, it could be time, to start defining a job role you are actually looking for.

Unrealistic expectations:

When the expectations set by your manager or company are unrealistic or unattainable, it can lead to stress and burnout. Why are you given mission-impossible project deliverables? Perhaps you are indeed the best person for the job, and these are big-ticket business objectives. It has been known that managers who appeared to set unrealistic expectations for their team, would proudly reflect the performance of the team was second to known. The issue is, that showing gratitude for the work done is not part of the playbook for being asked to do ever more challenging pieces of work.

Advice: Communicate with your manager about your workload and expectations. This is one of the trickiest forms of negotiations there is, the management is often under immense pressure to deliver, and a conversation on doing less is not part of the agenda, and will most likely go down like a lead balloon

Poor leadership:

If your manager or company leaders lack the necessary skills or experience to effectively manage their team, it can create a toxic work environment. The question you have to ask yourself is, how did you get here? For the main reason, you do not repeat the same mistake. Often parts of the job is good with a few hits and misses. On balance, the job should be neutral to good. Poor leadership underpins everything. If you work on a project for 2 years that gets scrapped due to poor business decisions above your pay grade, well there could be little impact on you. Your CV has 2 more years on a project, just be careful if in the Interview you are asked questions about going live.

If however, the poor leadership is at a level that impacts your day-to-day, then indeed you need to start game planning

Advice: Seek support and mentorship from other colleagues or leaders in your industry.

Lack of training and development:

When employees are not allowed to learn and grow, it can lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement. Most companies these days will have this built into the HR framework. This needs to be in your interview game plan and should be something that is of no surprise if it is not there, Perhaps you are a contractor or it’s casual work. Perhaps the company has no budget.

Advice: Seek out opportunities for professional development, such as attending workshops or pursuing additional education. Communicate your desire for growth with your manager and advocate for training and development opportunities.

Poor work-life balance:

When employees are expected to work long hours or are unable to disconnect from work outside of business hours, it can lead to burnout and stress. This one is very industry-specific. There should be no surprises about what the expectation of the employee is. This is no time for ‘surprise’ as your WFH is a 1 day on and 1 day off shift. These are crucial areas to indirectly clarify during the interview process.

Advice: Set clear boundaries with yourself, it is a force of nature that business objectives will shift to prioritise a better work-life balance.

Lack of resources:

When employees are not given the necessary tools or resources to complete their work, it can lead to frustration and inefficiency. Lack of resourcing can come in all shapes and sizes. perhaps the company is in different locations and you going between departments is not a staff bus, but simply a bus. Even firms with big budgets have an odd way of saving money, some can get a taxi from the airport others are ‘go it alone’.

Whether this is something that makes a work environment toxic is pushing the boat slightly, we all have priorities in life, and the one near the top is along the lines of paid employment.

Advice: Advocate for the resources you need to succeed and communicate any roadblocks to your manager

Toxic competition:

When competition among employees is toxic and creates a cut-throat environment, it can lead to stress and negativity. This is often true in highly competitive workplaces. New hires almost look oven-ready to do your job. Congratulations on being a workplace, many people will fight hard to get

Toxic Work Environment – Have a Plan

Encountering a toxic work environment can be a challenging and stressful experience. What you do next is possibly one of the most important career decisions you can take. It requires some big-picture planning, reading the room and game planning all options. Only then can you assess the implications of the actions you propose to take?

If you find yourself in such a situation, there are some steps you can take to try and address the issue. I do offer Therapy within this domain, please do not hesitate to reach out if that is something that may be of help, using the contacts on this page for a free consultation.

Remember, it is important to prioritise your mental health and well-being in any work environment. Do not hesitate to help seek solutions, and never settle for the status quo. Reach out and do something today.

Disclaimer, Please Read: The information provided in this article is for illustrative and informational purposes only. It does not establish a therapist-patient relationship. For medical issues or emergencies, always consult with a licensed medical professional. For non-clinical challenges related to stress, anxiety, and other emotional or behavioural concerns, considering a consultation with a therapist may be beneficial. Bohangar City Practice is a registered Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy practice, specialising in combining cognitive behavioural techniques with hypnosis to address various challenges and promote well-being. Any questions, please do reach out

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MULTI-MODAL THERAPY: Cognitive, Behavioural, Hypnotherapy, Mindfulness, etc.

THERAPIST: Former City Analyst, City of London, Singapore, Zurich, and Frankfurt. 

If you are seeking Therapy please reach out for an initial free consultation call. Bohangar Hypnotherapy Practice. Hope you enjoy this blog post, would love to hear your comments  

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