Remote Skills

How to Know if We Are in a Toxic Work Environment

A healthy work environment produces satisfaction, well-being, and good relationships between colleagues. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes we feel frustrated, tired, and unmotivated. It may even happen that we don't want to go to work because of a colleague, a boss, or the air we breathe in general. A toxic work environment can have very negative consequences for us.

If we keep in mind that any business or organization is a hive of emotions, it is not strange to think that conflicts and differences exist. This is not the problem, but how to manage them and what consequences they can have. A toxic work environment is characterized by grumpy and manipulative behavior.

Learning to understand if you too live in a toxic work environment will be of great help to protect you and prevent you from becoming imbued with that toxicity

How to know if we are in a toxic work environment

There are different signs that indicate that we are in a negative work environment, for example, our boss makes life impossible for us, or coworkers all go their own way. 

In the following lines, I will delve into these signals, which are the ones shown below.

Negative leadership

Superiors, due to the place they occupy in the organizational structure, exert a great influence on many people. A single boss or manager action can have negative or positive consequences on an entire team, and therefore, on the results of the company.

Those superiors who employ a transformational leadership style, that is, who cares about workers, are charismatic, communicate efficiently, and have a strong shared vision, who reach out to workers (are capable of changing the expectations, perceptions, and motivations of these), are those that obtain better results for the company and greater well-being of the workers.

Work overload

Work overload is more of a physical phenomenon, in which the person simply does not cope with the volume of work that has to be done.

For example, if an employee only has the capacity to produce 2 machines a day and management asks for 8. Logically, the worker will end up stressed and suffer the negative consequences of this phenomenon.

This is a situation that can occur relatively frequently due to the logic present in many companies, consisting of achieving the maximum profit in the shortest possible time. To achieve this, expenses are reduced that will not positively impact the productivity of the organization from day one, which leads to concentrating the maximum amount of work in the minimum number of hands. The result is usually burnout, something that can become chronic and that is not only detrimental to the worker but also lowers the productivity ceiling of the company.

Toxic companions (mobbing)

Co-workers are one of the key elements in the work environment, whether for better or for worse. Scientific studies suggest that a good relationship with these has a buffering effect in relation to stress, that is, in cases where this phenomenon manifests itself, partners reduce its negative effect. However, a bad relationship with colleagues is a very frequent stressor. Especially if cases of workplace harassment or mobbing occur in this relationship.

There are different types of mobbing, so the harasser or harassed can also be a boss.

Desires to leave the company and absenteeism

Another variable that is a consequence of being unhappy at work is absenteeism, that is, when the person frequently misses work for different reasons, generally due to sick leave. If this phenomenon appears, it is because there are reasons for it, beyond the marketing strategies that the organization can use to keep its staff happy.

However, it is not necessary for workers to be absent or leave the company when they are unhappy, because in recent times this figure has been reduced by the economic crisis and by the “ survivor syndrome ”. In reality, the simple idea of leaving the company can be measured, and this is what is known as the intention to leave the company. When a person is in a toxic work environment, the desire to leave the company increases.

You are not motivated to go to work

The two previous points are a clear indication of demotivation towards work and the little desire to work that is generated when the work environment is toxic. People who are not comfortable at work or are stressed feel great heaviness and demotivation every time they have to go to the workplace.

In turn, demotivation is usually reflected in the accumulation of tasks to be done, which in turn causes greater stress and discomfort, in a vicious circle.

You feel that you cannot grow within the company

The structure of the company and also affects the well-being of the workers and the motivation that one feels, and when there is no development plan, people perceive that they are stagnant. In the long run, this is not positive for their well-being and, therefore, stress and demotivation appear. 

Fundamentally, the problem is that the present is associated with what the future may hold, leaving very little room for improvement. This perspective is totally demotivating because it also gives a vision of the organization in which one is only a piece whose task is to keep working without looking much beyond their routine.

Bad communication

One of the phenomena that cause greater discomfort at work and a toxic work environment is communication, which can manifest itself at different levels. In the first point, I have talked about leadership styles and their influence on stress, and whether a leadership style is considered healthy or not is often determined by communication skills. However, poor communication can also occur, for example, between colleagues or from different company departments, and can generate role problems, discomfort, conflicts, and other negative phenomena.

You don't feel valued

People are emotional beings, and we all like to be valued. The vast majority of us have spent half our lives studying and fighting for our careers.

Just a few decades ago, many companies trained workers, and some of them felt they owed the organization a debt. Nowadays, after studying and paying for our studies during the 4 years of Bachelor's degrees (plus the different Masters) we want a little respect and appreciation. When this does not happen, it is very likely that demotivation and discomfort are a sign of presence.

You are stressed or burned out

All the previous points have something in common, and that is that if they occur over a long period of time they generate stress and burnout: one of the great evils of work, because it not only affects the workers but also the results of the organization.

It is common to see entire departments and even groups (for example, nurses) suffering stress from all the above variables and others that also affect the work environment and are beyond the control of the company. For example, political decisions or budget cuts in health (in the case of nurses). Therefore, there are many variables that can lead a person to live in a toxic work environment.