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10 Unmistakable Signs of a Toxic Workplace

Clock5 min. read
byVexxit Expert onOctober 08, 2020

The signs you need to watch out for—and quickly correct.

It’s no secret that happy employees are more productive workers—in fact, a recent study into happiness and productivity by Oxford University's Saïd Business School found that workers are 13% more productive when happy.  

The office environment can play a major role in employee happiness and job satisfaction. A safe, healthy environment allows employees to focus, learn and grow in their roles. Alternatively, an unhealthy or even toxic work environment can be distracting, demoralizing and incredibly detrimental to both employees and the company itself. 

The signs of a toxic workplace aren’t difficult to spot, but it’s important to be actively looking out for any of these signs and try to correct them as quickly as possible.

Here are 10 unmistakable signs of a toxic workplace culture:

1. People are afraid to speak up

Your employees should not be scared to speak up when issues or problems arise. If they seem hesitant, they might be afraid that what they say will be used against them or seen as being difficult. Healthy dialogue and feedback from employees are essential in helping a business grow. 

2. Ideas are not encouraged

Ideas should come from every level of the company, not just the higher-ups or the ‘Ideas Guy’. Beyond that, it’s important to create multiple opportunities for employees to share ideas—whether that’s brainstorming sessions, feedback surveys, roundtable discussions, or something else. 

3. Lack of diversity 

If you aren’t working with a diverse team of staff, all the ideas in the world don’t matter if they’re only coming from folks with similar world lens, viewpoints, and backgrounds. Staff diversity is important for looking at issues from all angles and navigating correctly through sensitive matters, especially depending on your business, industry or organization. Canada is an incredibly diverse country, and your office should reflect that. 

4. Hard work is not rewarded

We’re not saying every day should be a potluck celebration, but recognizing your team’s hard work is imperative. As leaders, we quickly speak up when there’s an issue but sometimes remain silent when everything is going just fine. Makes sense, right? Not for your staff—if they never hear that things are on the right track or that they’re doing things correctly, they will not feel as confident in their work. 

5. Overworking IS rewarded 

Burnout culture is real and can be incredibly toxic for a workplace. By rewarding long hours, unnecessary stress, and taking on dozens of tasks at a time, you’re showing employees that the only way to succeed in the company is by working oneself to the bone. Luckily, stress seems to have gone out of style and #selfcare is here to stay. A toxic workplace is one where employees are glued to their desks until the bosses finally leave for the night. A healthy one recognizes that employees have families, lives, and other commitments to get to, and shouldn’t be required to work past their end time. 

6. Departments do not communicate or interact with one another

Accounting and creative might not work together as naturally as peanut butter and jelly, but they should be able to work collaboratively when required. At the very least, make sure everyone in the office knows each other’s names and positions—this way, knowing who to ask about a question or task becomes a lot easier. 

7. Job roles and positions are unclear

To avoid confusion and the shirking of responsibilities, be sure everyone has a clear idea of what his or her role entails and what responsibilities are their own. Of course, tasks may be required outside of the job description, but it shouldn’t be happening regularly.   

8. No flexibility is offered

It’s important to be flexible even at the best of times —if an employee is feeling under the weather, let them to work from home or if they have daycare drop-off, allow them to push back their office hours. In today’s uncertain times, flexibility is extra important—employee health should be the main focus and with it may come some changes to the way we work. 

9. Things are done the old-fashioned way 

We live in an increasingly technological world, and it can feel frustrating when we don’t seem to be adapting to these technologies quickly enough or integrating them into our work for our own benefit. Similarly, what a workplace looked like 15 or 20 years ago (eight hour work days, formal business attire) is not the same today as it looks today. 

10. Employees are treated as disposable 

When employees feel they could be easily replaced or their work is undervalued, it takes a toll on their mental health. Respecting employees enough to treat them like the competent, complex individuals they are goes a long way in creating a healthy work environment for everyone.

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