Everyone has bad days at work — a customer is rude, you need to rush to finish a project, you have to skip lunch or some other annoying thing. If this is now and then, only 10 percent of the time, I’d say that is probably OK. Nothing is perfect. However, if you face daily major stresses, you constantly feel devalued and begin and end your day dreading your job, you may be in a toxic situation.
It’s a problem not only because it’s not fun, but because it can significantly impact your mental health. These daily occurrences can cause or trigger anxiety and depression, as well as a number of other mental illnesses. It’s important to recognize these potential issues so that you can protect your mental health from this type of stress and unhappiness. So, let’s take a look at some of the signs.
1. Your opinions and input are ignored, or worse: belittled.
A toxic workplace will only value the opinions of a select few, and ignore or devalue the input of anyone else. This may be because they don’t want to feel inferior to a “subordinate” or because they truly believe they are more intelligent than everyone else. Whatever the reason, you’ll learn it’s their way or the highway, regardless if it’s ineffective.
2. No accountability for management.
If your higher-ups have no one to answer to, and they won’t listen to your ideas, watch out. They can and will do whatever they want, and should you feel the need to make a complaint, no one is there to hear it. Additionally, promises of change can be made over and over again, but with no one to monitor the situation, there is no sureties of change.
3. Unclear policies and expectations.
While it’s not fun to have too many rules, it is important to have structure and defined roles within your workplace. Without them, it can be difficult to know if you’re doing things properly. And it can lead to “mind-reading” situations where you are just supposed to know how to do things, which is unfair. It also a problem when any difficulties do arise, as there is no set procedure to follow.
4. High turnover.
It should come as no surprise that a toxic work environment would have a high turnover rate. People may quit because they don’t feel valued or don’t feel they are able to learn or move up. In other instances, individuals may be fired for not following the “rules” even though they are arbitrary. Whatever the reasons, it’ll be common for people to come and go.
5. Bullying or worse.
Being told over and over again that you aren’t doing good enough, with no constructive feedback, isn’t only a bad way to do things; it’s bullying. Sometimes, it can be a subtle thing, such as sideways glances or speaking to you in a demeaning way; or it can be more overt such as name calling or threats against your job. Bullying doesn’t only occur on the schoolyard; it can be alive and well in the workplace too.
Of course, there will be things in jobs from time to time that you don’t need to know, and that’s OK. The problem of secrecy is when its purpose is to keep the company or those in higher positions from scrutiny. “Why did we fire that person? They broke a policy. Which policy? We can’t tell you. How will you know if you’re doing the wrong thing? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you.”
Being in a toxic workplace isn’t healthy and can seriously impact your mental health, especially if you are predisposed to mental illness. Hopefully, the outline above can serve as a caution. These are potential warning signs of a job to avoid or a prompt you’re in a position you need to leave. Unfortunately, for many reasons, it isn’t always easy to up and leave a job. In such instances, do what you can to protect your mental health in the meantime and keep looking for another suitable position.
If you’re struggling with your mental health because of your job, you’re not alone. It’s only natural to feel overwhelmed from time to time in your job, but if you live with chronic stress, it’s worth considering your options. It might be time to consider changing departments, talking to HR or possibly even leaving your job. You deserve to feel seen and supported in your career.
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