The office we work in is basically our second home. We have to spend a lot of our waking hours in the workplace, so it can be detrimental to our mental and physical health when the environment we work in is toxic. A toxic culture is more common than anyone would like to admit and are one of the biggest contributors to workplace stress and burnout.

Sure, we all get stressed at work, it’s pretty impossible to avoid. But when we’re working in an environment that makes us miserable, the stress is amplified. Toxic cultures often stem from employees, and the way that we engage and interact with each other. While we might not realise it, ‘toxic workers’ are often the most talented and productive people in a workplace. That’s why the way they’re acting impacts on morale and productivity within teams. It creates a toxic workplace that’s built on drama and office politics, negatively impacting employer branding.

This effect is amplified when these ‘toxic workers’ are at a more senior level. Hence the old saying “employees don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses”. Most leaders have a hard time acknowledging their problems that are creating toxic working environments – hence why employees will just look for work elsewhere. After all, the job itself is probably enjoyable, but the culture is ruining the experience.

So, what are the tell-tale signs of a toxic culture?

  1. Interactions are more formal than friendly

There’s no sense of community in your workplace. There’s not a lot of laughing or genuine smiles going on – almost as if people are afraid to have enjoyable conversations with their colleagues. Interactions are always more formal than friendly because no one seems genuinely happy.

  1. Over-concern about titles and hierarchy

Power always seems to be more important to toxic employees. When they meet a new colleague, they’ll be the first to state their title and status just to communicate that power. People trying to portray their status and use it as an excuse for their bad leadership will leave their employees feeling belittled and drained.

  1. Morale is at an all-time low

Everyone seems de-energized, and they’re just running like cogs on a wheel. One of the biggest signs of a toxic culture is simply the bad attitudes and lack of motivation in the workplace. When this happens, it’s important to try and figure out exactly what or who is causing the issues so you can try and overcome it.

  1. There’s always gossip and drama

It can often feel like your straight back at school again. There’s always gossiping going on and it can make people anxious that their colleagues are talking about them, or nit picking at every little thing they do. When this happens, it makes what should be a friendly workplace feel hostile and unwelcoming. It can be the most damaging to a person’s mental health when they find themselves on the receiving end.

  1. No one is speaking up

Even though everyone is feeling a bit miserable, no one is talking about it. There’s always a fearful-energy surrounding bringing the topic up, so no one dares because we don’t know what will happen if we do. Even when an employee is given an impossible goal or an unrealistic deadline, they say nothing.

Or, even when there are disputes between employees. No one will voice their concerns. So, instead of voicing concerns and trying to make things better, employees will just leave and find a job more suited to their working style.

  1. There’s a lack of trust

One of the biggest motivators in the workplace is knowing that your boss has your back. Or even that your colleagues will have your back. But in toxic workplace cultures, we’re much less likely to form trusting relationships with our managers and co-workers, which can leave us feeling on-edge and unappreciated.

  1. Poor communication

Employees are often left out of the loop regarding important information. You get little to no feedback. No one seems to fully understand what’s going on – because we aren’t communicating with each other properly. A lack of communication is a common characteristic of a toxic workplace, and can leave employees feeling stressed as they try to figure out exactly what’s happening.

Why does this happen?

Shared values are incredibly important to creating a great workplace culture. When leaders and employees have different priorities in terms of what they value, conflicts are much more likely to arise. Toxic cultures can easily arise when culture isn’t monitored and nurtured. This doesn’t even have to be at an organisational level – it has the potential to happen within teams. But, when leadership operates in a consistent manner and portray the same values as the company the employee signed up to work for, culture should stay on track.

We all prefer different styles of working and communicating – so we won’t all be suited to different types of workplace cultures. It’s worth considering whether it’s a toxic workplace culture or whether it’s just simply not a good fit for ourselves. The key is to find an organisation where the management style suits your approach to working. One that truly encompasses the values that it states.

If you’re trying to recruit for true cultural fit, our values-based recruitment software will get you right on track. It doesn’t have to be difficult to create a workplace culture that suits management and employees. We just have to start by acknowledging that theirs a problem that needs fixing!