Today's blog in the #BeTheRippleBlogs series is an insightful piece from Ian Turner.
Ian and I have never met in person, but have been connected on LinkedIn for around a year. I attended a virtual classroom session that Ian ran last year and I was instantly impressed with his delivery, he exudes kindness.
Ian is an experienced learning, training and development consultant, ready, willing and able to assist leaders and managers to deliver the results that are important to the organisation. In his work he fully commits to understanding a business, its operating methods, its challenges and most of all its culture before he goes on to work with the organisation's people. Culture is something that he discusses in his piece and his wealth of experience in this area shines through.
Over to Ian:
Toxic Workplace Environments - A Survival Guide
The Toxic Workplace Environment
For many of us, our office and place of work is like a second home. We spend the majority of our waking hours there and our colleagues may well be the people we interact with most in our lives outside of family or a spouse.
Research and many studies have found that it is impossible to be effective and feel fulfilled in a toxic workplace or environment. Even if you work from home, the over-spill of the negativity of a toxic workplace can, and often does, break through physical walls. Those intangible qualities that make work a healthy or unhealthy place can impact everything from our personal life, through to our physical health and our self-esteem and how we view ourselves as a whole being.
In fact, the whole scenario which would include the increased level of stress experienced whilst working in a dysfunctional office, or environment can lead directly to job burnout, particularly for those who are strongly emotionally connected to their work and have their work as a method of exemplifying their feelings of self worth.
Why Toxic Workplaces Affect Certain Groups More.
8 Warning Signs That You Are In A Toxic Workplace Environment
Wouldn't it be handy if you could simply identify if you’re trapped in a toxic workplace environment? Well, here are eight potential 'alarm bells' that may well warn you that you are indeed working in a toxic workplace environment.
1 - You are told to feel "Lucky that you have a job".
OK, so this is an easy one to spot isn't it? If you’ve ever heard this statement from your line manager, this has to be seen as a major 'red flag'. This potential threat is simply a scare tactic, is a means of threatening you into staying in a marginalised position and is typically symptomatic of an organisation that thrives on bullying behaviour and command and control type structures to eliminate decent and individualised innovation and free thought.
2 - Poor communication.
Another easy one to level at most organisations to some degree or another, but in the instance of the toxic workplace environment it is deliberate, insidious and actively encouraged. So, do you feel like you’re left out of the loop regarding important information? A pervasive lack of communication characterises most toxic workplaces. You may get little to no feedback about your performance, and when you do, it’s negative and harsh and certainly not of the nurturing or constructive type.
You may be doing the work of two, three, or four people, yet it’s not unusual for your boss or colleagues to take credit for your accomplishments.
3 - Everyone has a bad attitude or set of regular behaviours.
If you walk into work and everyone around you is miserable, down-beat and subservient, then you are most likely trapped in a toxic environment. In this type of environment, there is no enthusiasm; no one coming in with smiles on their faces and no one ever says “I love working here.” It is also usual to see a high turnover rate among employees, all of which is a good sign that people are fleeing very quickly, most likely because of their unhappiness and poor morale at work. Check out how many people start and leave within 6 - 9 months, these are the ones that have 'worked it out'...
4 - There is always some drama happening.
If cliques dominate your work environment, it can feel as if you’re back in school all over again. You may be anxious and paranoid that your colleagues are talking about you. Toxic, cliquey colleagues are most likely to be found hovering around the vending machine whispering in each other’s ears. They potentially make what should be friendly workplace competition seem like a hostile and dog-eat-dog necessity. There’s always rumours or gossip floating around the office; misunderstanding, favouritism, and infighting are the norm.
5 - Dysfunction reigns!
If you have ever read a book by Patrick Lencioni called 'The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team', you'll know what I am discussing here! I can really recommend this book as it really shines a light of focus on what it is to be dysfunctional, and all the games we play to try to prove that we are not! So, in your working world, do meetings feel like a waste of time, inevitably blowing up into disorganised chaos where nothing is accomplished and actions are either not sought, owned or taken away? Are the company’s operations, systems of work and processes disjointed and failing? Toxic workplaces are full of confusion, arbitrary deadlines, lack of focus, and a general malaise that "this is the way it’s always been done, it won't change". If new policies or regulations are constantly getting added, or if the leadership and management teams are never around to help solve problems, these are symptoms of a larger problem stemming from poor leadership and low morale.
6 - You have a tyrannical leader.
This is just too easy isn't it, you can spot them a mile away! This is generally the type of boss is always trying to control your every move and you feel as if they are just waiting to pounce on you for getting it wrong. Toxic bosses usually seem unwilling to listen to others and strongly believe that their way is always the right way. Could it be that your boss loves wielding their power and showing others that they’re in charge? Could it be that they are probably not willing to lend a hand or to help in tasks or give you credit for a job well done. If you believe that your boss would expect you to come to work even if you were on your deathbed, you might be experiencing a tyrannical and toxic boss.
7 - There is no opportunity for growth.
This is a classic warning sign of a workplace with a toxic stream running through it... If no one appears to have the chance to develop, grow or experience new things, then you are likely stuck in a toxic environment. If you’ve approached your leaders or managers, or even HR several times regarding a lack of recognition and growth opportunities (such as promotions, secondments, work shadowing, coaching or mentoring, and challenging assignments), and have seen no changes, it may be time to leave.
8 - You just 'feel' that something is just all a bit 'off'.
When your intuition says something is amiss, trust it! Physical symptoms that can develop, such as sleepless nights or a racing heartbeat, can be your sensitive nervous system alerting you of danger! listen to it!
How To Stay Sane and Survive a Toxic Workplace
Quitting immediately isn’t always an option, so here are a few tips to improve the situation whilst you devise your exit strategy.
Thank you to Ian for sharing such an insightful piece.
As Ian discusses, there are multiple layers to toxic workplaces and a higher level of awareness will help us to understand whether what we are experiencing is toxic and if so, what steps we might take.
Have you ever worked in a toxic workplace? If so, we would love you to write in the comments section, or even share your story by submitting a blog for this series.
Thank you once again to Ian for sharing such an insightful piece.
If you would like to submit a blog for this series, please send your work via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you all on Monday for the next blog post!
You can find PDFs of all blog pieces: