3 Unmistakable Signs You are in a Toxic Workplace

When a workplace is not fair, it leaves a corrosive effect on the work culture and employees' morale

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By Kamalika De


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"Toxicity in the workplace spreads like a virus. Before you know it, you have caught the 'infection' and find yourself acting in ways that complement or replicate the very behaviors that are making you angry, frustrated, and/or depressed," said Elizabeth Holloway and Mitchell Kusy, famous consultants and full-time professors at Antioch University, specially known for their book "Toxic Workplace! Managing Toxic Personalities and Their Systems of Power".

Toxicity at workplace is a big no-no for everybody as it affects a person at multiple levels. Research says toxic workplaces cost employees billions annually in the form of absenteeism, health care, lost productivity, and more.

How will you identify the signs of toxicity at your workplace? Is there any tactic to cope with toxic work environment?

Here are the three unmistakable signs of a toxic workplace and how to fix it:

The Leadership Goes Wrong

Leaders are responsible for creating an atmosphere where employees feel encouraged, appreciated and as a result become more productive.

Saumya Raghav, Deputy Manager at Policybazaar.com feels, "It is vital for companies to hire smart leaders who can energize and inspire their subordinates, peers and even superiors. They can become architects of an employee's success, counselors for those going through hard times and keep employees motivated at all times."

But when you work under a person who lacks leadership quality, practices favoritism, hardly listens to your opinion about anything and tries to control your every single move, it is natural that you will eventually lose your zeal to do something creative. Such a dominating manager seldom appreciates good work and often tries to find faults in each and every task. Demanding perfection is not a wrong thing, but we all need a little dose of appreciation from time to time.

Leadership going wrong is the first telltale sign that you are in a toxic environment.

How to fix it?

Running away is definitely not a solution. You need to find out what your manager's goals and interests are, what he/she values, how he/she processes information and takes decisions. Once you know your manager, you can be better prepared to deal with him/her and kill toxicity. If nothing within your limit brings good results, you can escalate the issue with the higher authority.

Your Team Member is Difficult to Work With

Does your team member often take credit of your work? Does your team member not have any idea about cubical etiquettes? Are you frequently interrupted by the same team member in project meetings? In short, does this team member drive you crazy by his/ her obnoxious behavior? If your answer is in affirmation, you are working with a toxic team member.

Is there any way to fix this situation?

Saumya Raghav suggested, "Many a time, underachievers in the workplace can feel neglected and create a toxic working environment. So, it is important for managers to ensure that the overachievers stay grounded, push the achievers to strive for higher targets, and counsel and motivate the underachievers. This heightens every employee's self-worth and creates a more convivial work environment."

There is No Fairness

Has your colleague got promoted in spite of being less skilled than you are? Does your colleague enjoy some privileges in office, which you are denied outrightly? If your answer is yes, then you are not treated fairly. And when a workplace is not fair, it leaves a corrosive effect on the work culture and employees' morale. Eventually, the entire work environment becomes toxic.

Rupam Manna, having 7 years of work experience at multiple organizations, an independent digital marketer, last worked at Next Screen Infotech Private Limited, opined, "Toxic workplace increases inequality and unfair treatment with biases which form an unhealthy workplace culture. That feeling that the situation is unfair leads employees to ask whether they are truly a part of the organization's community. And when employees start feeling this, the overall productivity of a company gets hampered."

How can you deal with favoritism?

Here are a few tips:

  • Maintain a positive attitude
  • Avoid gossip
  • Speak up- talk to HR and senior managers
  • Stay trustworthy
  • Keep all communication channels open

Frankly speaking, if favoritism is deep-rooted, there is often little you can do about it. Looking for other options is the best choice in such a situation.

Toxicity at workplace is a reality. We all face it some time or other in our professional life. The important thing is to realize that you are in a toxic work environment and take corrective steps. If it is beyond your limit to bust toxicity, switching the job is the right decision.

Kamalika De

Freelancer, Entrepreneur India

An independent writer and journalist, Kamalika De regularly contributes to various leading online platforms. She has founded DoQuickly to offer simple hacks to do things quickly.

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