Warning signs of a toxic workplace

quotes-933816_640By Henry Brown

Despite what you might hear in the business press about the playful nature of modern companies (think of the bowling alley, free gourmet meals and free yoga classes and massages offered at Google’s headquarters, for example), most businesses are rather different.

With so much competition to defeat, business owners around the world are putting increasing amounts of pressure on their employees, and the results can be destructive. But the trouble is that many owners don’t even realize they are doing it, and won’t find out until it is too late.

In today’s guide, we’re going to take a look at some of the warning signs that might be showing you workplace is turning toxic.

Rising levels of employee illness

People want to work in jobs they enjoy, and if lots of staff members are taking time off sick, it’s likely not a coincidence. Whether they are off doing interviews for other opportunities or are genuinely ill at home, it should be a cause for concern for employers.

A toxic work environment has a significant effect on everyone, and can even impact the health of your employees, with anxiety, depression, and physical ailments all too common.

Stressful environments

When people are under a lot of pressure, stress tends to take hold. And it’s more dangerous than you might think. People suffering from stress can develop illnesses and conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems, and stroke.

Unless you provide some stress management resources and resolve the issues within your workplace, you will face reducing levels of productivity, employee behavioral issues, and an increase in absenteeism. If there are several members of staff all showing obvious signs of stress, you can also start to expect severe morale issues coming into the workplace, too.

Low morale

Are your employees always looking glum, worried, and anxious? Low morale is a critical sign of a toxic workplace. When everyone’s in a bad mood or feeling depressed, how can you expect them to work well?

It’s impossible, and it’s vital for you, as the leader, to try and find ways of solving the problem and starting to motivate your staff.

Low levels of employee retention

As we mentioned above, increased occasions of employee absence are a sure sign that your workplace is toxic. But when people start to leave in droves, it might just be irreparable.

It is imperative that you move quickly to discuss employee problems with them and come up with a solution, or you will lose your best people and garner a reputation as a terrible employer. And with online reviews of employers available for all to see, this could spell disaster.

What can be done?

Ultimately, this is all about your leadership skills. To be a great leader, you need to display strength and motivation, but you also need to lend your ear to your teams. Show them loyalty, and your staff will show it back in spades.

Sort out problems, and you will earn their respect. It’s not enough to deliver a paycheck every month these days – you have to provide a positive working environment, too.

Have you ever worked in a toxic environment, or pulled one around? Let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.


Henry Brown is an online marketing executive. When he isn’t talking shop he’s roaming the streets of London, uncovering the extra-ordinary in the ordinary.

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