5 Ways To Identify A Toxic Work Environment

Can’t remember the last time you looked forward to going to work? You may be working in a toxic work environment.

Published On Mar 09, 2022 | Updated On Mar 07, 2024


Everyone experiences Monday blues and challenging days at work now and then, but if your bad days at work seem to be never-ending, it is time to analyse if you are in a toxic workplace. Robert Sutton, a professor of organisational behaviour at Stanford University, states that a toxic work environment “leaves you feeling like dirt”. While there is no clear definition of the 'toxic workplace' phenomenon yet, there are some signs you can watch out for. If you haven’t felt like going to work lately, it may be more than just a lack of motivation. Here are five telltale signs of a toxic workplace.


The UK’s Mental Health Foundation describes stress as “the feeling of being overwhelmed or unable to cope with mental or emotional pressure.”. It is often difficult to tell whether you are feeling stressed because of the environment at work or due to a personal reason. One of the ways to find out is by confiding in a colleague you trust. If they are facing the same challenges or agree with your difficulties, you may be in toxic work culture.

Insufficient, inconsistent, erratic, and scattered communication is another sign of a hostile work environment. It could be between colleagues or between managers and employees. Poor communication can create rifts within teams. It can also lead to fights and unnecessary friction among employees.

If you feel stagnated at work, you may be in a toxic work culture. A healthy work environment offers ample opportunities for the personal and professional growth of employees. If there have been little to no learning opportunities at your current job or your responsibilities haven’t evolved much, you’re bound to feel stuck. So, it may be time for you to move on.


“Eight hours to work, eight hours to play and eight hours to sleep,” that’s how a research paper defines a healthy work-life balance. So, if you are working for too many hours of the day, more often than you’d like, it’s time to review the expectations your employer has from you.

Rapid employee turnover is perhaps the biggest sign of a toxic workplace. Leaving a job is a tough decision for most people, and if many people from the company are making that decision, then it’s probably the company’s work culture to blame.

Some other signs of a toxic workplace include unmotivated coworkers, poor leadership and feeling burnt out often.

An international poll by a job search website found that 42% of US workers left their jobs due to toxic work culture. However, sometimes, you can tackle a toxic work environment with the help of good communication and the right leadership. So, if possible, do try to address the issue that you think is leading to the toxic work environment.

You can seek help from your managers or leaders to look into the issue. If it remains unresolved after several attempts, it may be time to rethink your association with the organisation. Some companies tend to have such an entrenched dysfunctional culture that it cannot be fixed easily or within a short period.

Photo: Shutterstock