Signs you’re in a Toxic Workplace Environment and How to Handle it

Helen Tanny
7 min readDec 21, 2021

You might hate your job, but toxic workplace culture is more than just a job you hate. You might have bad days or disappointing weeks at work. That is totally normal. However, if you repeatedly having bad days at work, you might be trapped in a toxic workplace environment.

Going to work every morning makes you stressed, tired, and sick. There are many reasons that contribute to toxic workplace culture. It can be the top management, your colleagues, the company culture, and many more. Whatever the reason is, toxic workplace can quickly destroy your motivation, attitude, and work performance.

Toxic Workplace Culture

Poor communication

Communication is an important skill in any workplace. Communication skill involved verbal and written communication, listening, communication tools (face-to-face, phone call, text messages, email, memo — the list goes on!), as well as body language.

Examples of poor communication:

  • Lack of clarity from both side
  • Different employees receive different messages
  • Passive-aggressive communication
  • Failure to listen
  • Communication during “off-hours”

Everyone looks miserable, including you.

No one in your workplace is in a good mood. You and your colleague show up unhappy and miserable every morning. Your workplace is full of negative energy. Most of the conversation you had with your colleagues revolves around frustration about your work and workplace.

High turnover

You notice that several people left. Leaving a job is a tough decision but if people got enough courage to do so, then that is a sign of a toxic workplace. Employees are more likely to leave their job when their workplace is filled with negativity, poor communication, stress, poor management, bad leadership, and no opportunity.

Bad Boss

“You don’t leave a job, you leave a bad boss.”

Your boss always demands agreement. He/she always want to be in control. The only answer to his/her demand is “Yes, boss!” They expect you to work when you were sick. They expect you to work during lunch hours. They expect you to work after working hours, on weekends, during public holidays, or even when you are on vacations.

Your boss doesn’t know the actual workflow and give an absurd instruction. You work according to the instruction given, but he/she never satisfied with your work.

Your boss is narcissist — arrogance, dominance and hostility. You are often humiliated in front of your colleagues about your imperfections.

Your boss doesn’t respect you and your personal time. He/she calling and emails you even after working hour.


What’s the deal with Diana lately? Did you saw Diana in pink dress today? Don’t you think Diana looks weird? Hey, I heard that yesterday Diana was THIS and Diana was THAT… and the gossips about Diana never stop. First, let me clarify this. The name Diana is just an example. During my 15 years of working in a cubicle office, I met three Diana. All of them are wonderful, kind, and amazing lady.

Your co-worker loves gossip. They whispering or chatting on messaging platforms during working hour. Talking about work doesn’t interest them as much as gossiping does. A little bit gossip is normal in any situation, but if it got to the point where everyone is talking about everyone else behind closed doors, then it’s a toxic.

Unmotivated Co-workers

Your co-workers can influence you, especially when it comes to handling your task at workplace. They can motivate you to work harder. They also can demotivate you. When your workplace is full of unmotivated co-workers, it’s a sign of toxic workplace environment. Unmotivated co-workers make you burnout and ruin your mental health. You will have to shoulder a ton of work that they aren’t handling, or will eventually become unmotivated too.

No Growth

No changes in task, position, or pay. You have been doing the same task for years. Your workplace doesn’t invest in the growth of their employees. There are no learning opportunities. You are stuck in your career doing the same tasks for years.

You may be offered a promotion and tasks changes opportunities when you first started your career. You learn more and growth a lot during your early career, but now you has been doing the same task for more than one year. If there is no more growth in your career for more than one year, your workplace is toxic.

No Work-Life Balance

You’re always working… ALWAYS working! Constant phone call and text after working hour. Read and reply email after your dinner. Checking your phone for notification regarding work when you are about to sleep.

You are working even when you are on vacation, when you are at the hospital caring for a sick family, and even on your wedding day! Whenever you take a day off, your boss will not let you alone. Your boss expects you to work and even instructed you to be “always on” for work.

You should be able to forget everything about work after your working hour finished. You should be allowed to take a day off without thinking about work at all. You are entitled to annual leave and you deserved to use it without being disturbed.

If your job requires you to be always on-call, your job is toxic. If your boss requires you to answer emails after working hour, your job is toxic. When you are expected to always available for work, your job is toxic.


No work-life balance will eventually burn you out. You are working all the time even during weekend and public holiday. Unmotivated co-workers also result in burnout. You have to take many task that left by your unmotivated co-workers. Your tasks never finished but it keeps piling up with new tasks. Burnout is a sign of toxic workplace environment.

Verbal Abuse

You are working in a toxic office if your boss or co-workers verbally abuse or bully others with their words or action.

Your Colleagues Take Credit for the Work You Have Done

You colleagues take credit from the work you have done. You are the one who done the job, but your colleagues present it to your boss and pretend like he/she is the one who do it. It can harm your reputation at workplace.

The Blame Game

In your workplace, it’s always someone else’s fault. When something goes wrong, everyone is always blaming someone else.


Discrimination is normal practice in your workplace. Discrimination on gender — prefer male over female; male employee paid higher than female employee, or vice versa.

Discrimination on ethnicity — for example, most company that owned by Chinese prefer Chinese employee over other races; or Chinese employee paid higher than other races.

Discrimination on age — giving only young people a chance to work while overlooked jobseeker in their 50’s.

No matter what type of discrimination practices in your workplace, discrimination is wrong and it’s toxic.

How to Handle Toxic Workplace

You might think that you only have to deal with toxic environment during working hour. Everything will be good once you clock out and head home. But the truth is this toxic will follow you into your personal life.

Toxic workplace can ruin your self-esteem and your relationships with family and friends. It also can affect your mental and physical health negatively. If your workplace show many of the toxic sign mentioned above, then it’s time to see what you can do to handle the situation.

Use your Annual Leave

Use your annual leave to the fullest. Every employee is entitled to annual leave. Instead of taking a leave frequently just because you don’t feel like to work, why not take a whole week or two-week leave? Go to somewhere and relax your mind.

If taking a week long holiday is not possible due to some circumstances, for example, you are run out of annual leave, or maybe you don’t have enough money, you can take a weekend getaway. Go to somewhere near during weekend and forget your work and workplace completely.

When you are taking a day off, don’t answer the email and phone call related to work unless there is no other choice. If your co-worker is still breathing and alive in the office while you are on annual leave, give them a chance to handle your work. You can always return the favour when they take annual leave later.

Don’t feel bad about forgetting your work when you are on annual leave. That is the purpose of annual leave.

Social times with family and friends

Instead of thinking about your work all the time, set aside some time for family and friends. Visit some friends during the weekend, have a dinner with family after working hour, go out and do some shopping with them.


Try to do some exercise. Move your body and relax your mind. Exercise not only gives you a healthy body but also reduce stress and anxiety. Exercise help in improving the quality of your life.

Find New (or Forgotten) Hobbies

Instead of lying down doing nothing or watching TV after dinner, try a new hobby on evening. Some good suggestions are meditation, yoga, walking, listening to music, read a book, knitting, or try adopt a cat — cat are super adorable!

Regain Your Identity

When you are in a toxic workplace for a long time, you might forget who you really are. All the things you like to do before doesn’t interest you anymore. Try to remember what you like to do before and what you want to do in your life.

Leave Your Job

If your job is too toxic for you and you can’t handle it anymore, leave your job might be your last option. Start to look for a new job that better suit your personality and the one that will inspire you to be a better person.



Helen Tanny

Hi! I’m Helen. I write about self-improvement, lifestyle, career, mental health, travel, and digital marketing.