10 Signs of a Toxic Workplace

Red flags might include lying bosses or a lackluster HR team.

Not loving your job isn’t necessarily a reason to quit — after all, it’s called “work” for a reason. But there are certain things contributing to a toxic work environment that shouldn’t be tolerated. GOBankingRates spoke to career experts about identifying the signs of a toxic workplace, so you know what to look out for. If any of these signs apply to you, it might be time to start seeking out a new job.

Tips From the Pros: 20 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Getting a Job

Sign No. 1: Your Boss Never Delivers on Their Promises

“If your boss is constantly making huge promises but nothing ever comes, this is a sign that the boss is either delusionally optimistic, or worse, trying to use [fantasies] to distract employees from the reality that the environment isn’t healthy,” said Sean Sessel, director of the personal development firm The Oculus Institute.

If your boss is guilty of this behavior, find out how to make it work with a bad boss.

Sign No. 2: You Aren’t Getting Feedback on Your Performance

If there’s no structure in place for you to get feedback on your job performance — or if you seek it out and you’re denied — this is a major sign of a bad workplace.

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“Not only does this limit your ability to grow, but it also creates an environment where firing, raises and promotion are entirely arbitrary,” Sessel said.

Sign No. 3: You Don’t Have Any Say in How Your Job Should Be Done

Sessel characterizes this sign of a toxic workplace as “responsibility without autonomy.”

“If you are responsible for an outcome without having the ability to make decisions that determine that outcome, your ability to do your job is in someone else’s hands,” he said.

Sign No. 4: Disrespectful Behavior Is Tolerated

“Tolerance for someone who disrespects their colleagues or undermines the mission [is a sign of a toxic work environment],” Sessel said. “Once one person can engage in such behavior and others see it is tolerated, standards will slip across the board and the culture will deteriorate rapidly.”

Lack of respect among colleagues in a work environment can lead to “stress, frustration, harassment and even abuse,” said Paul Mastrangelo, Ph.D., a senior culture strategist at CultureIQ, which specializes in company culture and employee engagement solutions.

Hostility in the Workplace: Signs You Need to Find a New Job — Fast

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Sign No. 5: The Higher-Ups Aren’t Truthful

“If you are being lied to, then you are being manipulated, and you will never have the information you need to make the right career decisions,” Sessel said.

Sign No. 6: There’s High Employee Turnover

If you notice that people are continually clearing their desks, and no one stays for more than a few months due to unreasonable demands or overall dissatisfaction, this is a tell-tale sign that the environment is toxic.

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Sign No. 7: Your Co-Workers Are Visibly Unhappy

It’s a bad sign when “in the office, you can sense less energy, happiness and general positivity, and people appear less engaged and socialize with each other less frequently,” said Jordan Wan, founder and CEO of recruitment firm CloserIQ.

Sign No. 8: HR Isn’t Addressing Issues With the Work Environment

DeAnn Wandler, an organizational culture coach, said that it’s a red flag when “HR is ineffectual and pretends along with the rest of management not to be aware of the toxic culture.”

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Wandler recalled working for a company where the human resources team stopped conducting annual employee satisfaction surveys after receiving too many poor reviews. And, even before they stopped conducting the survey, the findings were never communicated with the rest of the employees. “They opted not to share the outcomes with the staff, further indicating the lack of transparency and their lack of an actionable strategy to improve,” she said.

Related: Common Ways Smart People Lose Their Jobs

Sign No. 9: Communication Is Lacking or Disjointed

A work environment that doesn’t foster open communication results in a “stressful, disjointed culture,” Wandler said. This can be caused by a total lack of communication or by triangulating management practices, in which a manager won’t talk directly with a colleague and will instead communicate to a third person.

Sign No. 10: Management Shows Blatant Favoritism

If you work at a company where “professional opportunities and/or promotions only come if ‘you’re one of the boys,'” that can foster a toxic environment, Wandler said. Ideally, your job will recognize and nurture all talent and encourage career progression, regardless of whether or not you’re a boss’s favorite.

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Unbelievable: The Worst Things Bosses Made Their Employees Do

Stress from a hostile work environment can bleed into your life outside of the office. If you feel that your job isn’t good for your mental health, that’s a good reason to call it quits and find a new job that will offer more work satisfaction.

Now that you know what makes a work environment toxic, make sure you aren’t contributing to it. Click through to discover the little things you do that bug your co-workers.

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About the Author

Gabrielle Olya

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and People.com. Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 

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