Is Your Workplace Toxic? Do The Checklist!

I began to wonder what it takes to make an inclusive, safe, and non-toxic workplace? Is it by supporting the employees to invest their full potential into the work, or by encouraging work-life-balance?

Right after I entered into the work-life, the conversations between my friends or any peer groups, everyone had one common thing to dump their thoughts on – work life disaster!

Professional hierarchy, talking about bosses, hectic loads by not saying No to any tasks, finishing off deadlines, and patiently nodding head to all the craps, etc, etc.

At first, everyone thought that – this is how it is meant to be. But, the truth is that we were not able to ‘see’ or identify the red flags at the workplace! This Expert says that employees have struggled— “To identify their workplace as toxic because they just assume that such environments are normal and, over time, may even learn to navigate them well.”

Recently, one of my friends, who is so bright and active, resigned from a job that she really wanted only because of the toxic experience at the workplace. She shared her experience, “There was no room for training or improvement, followed by constant verbal abuse for making mistakes, too many tasks were allotted to be completed in a short time, and guess what? I can’t even take leaves that I have.”

After listening to all similar experiences people have faced from in network circle and how they encountered toxicity in their workplace— especially as a fresher, I restarted to look into my workplace (which was completely functioning on remote model).

Luckily, I realized there were no toxic or traumatic experiences in my workplace. Moreover, it is a healthy workspace, especially for a fresher like me. So I began to wonder what it takes to make an inclusive, safe, and non-toxic workplace? Is it by supporting the employees to invest their full potential into the work, or by encouraging work-life-balance?

At first, what is a toxic workplace?

“A toxic workplace is one where negative behaviours—such as manipulation, bullying, yelling, and so on—are so intrinsic to the culture of the organization that a lack of productivity, a lack of trust, high stress levels, infighting, and discrimination become the norm.”

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If you are nervous to speak your mind, raise concerns, or share thoughts because you are worried about being rejected or reprimanded- then you are in a toxic work environment! 

Even though “There’s been a true shift toward making workplaces more transparent, nurturing, and inclusive, and the conversation around toxicity is now more open and accessible to everyone,” we cannot say workplaces are completely non-toxic and employees are able to identify the red flags!

Toxic workplace in India

Let’s do the checklist to know if your workplace is toxic!

Here is a checklist for you, to find out if you are working in a toxic workplace.

No Room to make mistakes.

In the initial stages of my work, I used to make a lot of mistakes. I was so nervous and feared that I had to hear the blame. Surprisingly, my teammates never made me uncomfortable and always showed me how to fix and redo everything.

One day, my Head told me, “If you are making mistakes, then you are learning something new!” Her words had given me great support and confidence to challenge myself.

On the other hand, when fear of mistakes paralyses employees, they get heavily blamed or punished—it is a sign of a threatening environment.

Unhealthy interpersonal relationships.

Interpersonal relationships between employees are a significant factor in understanding how healthy or not a workplace is.

Gossip, bullying, a huge silence (often), before or after team meetings, and feeling not secure among the employees out of work, are not at all good signs of a healthy workspace.

Signs of a healthy workplace: Casual conversations during the break, jokes, or sharing memes on the group chat, and meet-ups out of work are a few examples that can help to build healthy relationships among the employees.

Recommending books or movies, sharing pictures of the painting, food, or any other weekend hobbies created a personal bond and healthy relationship among my colleagues.

Lack of support for employee growth.

One of the important signs of a toxic workplace is lack of mentorship and support for career growth.

Many employees, in a toxic workplace, feel disconnected from their team or head with zero motivation. They find themselves in a difficult situation in determining what to do next in their career, especially for beginner-level employees.

Employees from marginalized backgrounds find it more difficult and challenging to achieve progress in their careers, due to lack of all kinds of support and other socio-economical obstacles they experience every day.

Meanwhile, in a healthy workplace, employees will get mentorship and good guidance. They will be asked to do courses, attend workshops/seminars, and be informed about the opportunities in the firms.

Employees will receive immense support from their team/head to enhance their career growth through healthy competition.

Everyday work stress!

In a toxic environment, employees never feel relieved.

There will be one problem after another, like disagreement with the team/management, lack of proper communication, payment issues, and tasks that never get finished. In an environment like this, employees are always under stress.

Work stress gradually affects their mental health and leads to anxiety, depression, panic attacks, fatigue, sleep issues, and many other difficulties. Mental health disorders will lead to physical health concerns including body aches, headaches, digestive issues, etc.

In severe cases, with uncertainty/helplessness of finding other jobs, employees can be suicidal.

In a healthy environment, employees feel stress-free and supported by their team/head. A workplace with positive energy, clear communication, and supportive colleagues, are other signs. It is important to create a stress-managed workplace for the benefit of the employees and the company as well.

Read more: Rising Strong: Empowering Women in the Face of Stress and Depression

No trust between employees

Trust is the key to everything, from gaining confidence among colleagues to helping each other on achieving the same goals.

In a workplace, where people trust each other—it enhances teamwork and collaboration, improves productivity and engagement, decreases stress, improves employee loyalty and retention, maintains accountability and openness to change.

Whereas, in a toxic and unsafe environment, employees always feel they are monetized by the head team or management. Regular checking at the desk, and going through reports or finances, can lead to doubt among the employees.

It will gradually affect the team bond, self-doubt their abilities, etc. Lack of trust in the workplace leads to less productivity and client dissatisfaction. Hence, it is important to build a space with trust and openness.

Read more: 12 Tips For Working With Colleagues Smoothly

High turnover rate

Famous career coach Eli Bohemond says, “Turnover is definitely a good sign that you are sniffing around some toxicity, especially if you are seeing a specific department or segment that is struggling to keep people over 12 months,”.

If the company keeps hiring for the same job or team because someone quit soon, and there aren’t many long-term workers, it’s not a safe, friendly, or healthy place to work.

Several reasons like low and irregular payment, limited advancement opportunities, and poor company culture etc indicate high turnover rates.

Companies with a number of long-term employees ensure—they are good with and for employees!

Read more: The Right to Disconnect: Will India Ever Allow Employees To Embrace Work-Life Balance?

Work beyond work hours!

Do you often work outside your working hours? Does your head ask you to respond to emails and join meeting calls anytime, anywhere? Have you worked on weekends/holidays regularly or regularly?

If yes, you are in a highly toxic workplace.

Companies or workplaces that encourage to prioritize work over anything promote unhealthy work-life boundaries. With zero work-life balance, it can literally make your life with no time to breathe.

Even, if you are a work-from-home employee, that doesn’t mean you should be available all time!

A workplace that prioritizes the wellness of employees, ensures they are work-free on weekends/holidays and work won’t follow them to home or after work hours — perfectly balance your work-life.

Read more: Can’t Find That Elusive Work-Life Balance? 5 Things You Can Do To Be Happier, Instead

Leaves that never get approved!

One of the invisible, but significant signs of a toxic workplace is leaves that never get approved!

It is a fundamental right of an employee to take leave due to many reasons like illness, personal emergencies, holidays, and even simply taking off. Employees should be free to take leaves without stating reasons or reasons that count as valid!

Many people from my network have shared, that they have to lie to take leaves like ‘they are sick, or someone passed away’, even though they have leave balances. It shows they are not in a friendly workplace.

A non-toxic, healthy, and safe workspace never discourages you from taking leave without or with a ‘valid reason’! A break always makes to come back with good energy.

Read more: Update Yourself On These Legal Rights For Women That Every Woman Must Know

Do you know It is your right to work in a non-hostile and inclusive environment?

How to identify toxic work-place

According to a study, “In India, toxic workplace behaviour is dominant, accounting for approximately 90% of explained variance for every outcome.”

In India, every employee has the Right to be protected from any kind of discrimination, harassment at work, and hostile environment. A workplace should be safe and inclusive that provide a healthy environment for full potential productivity and balance work-life.

But, many of the employees not even know what is a toxic workplace. Even they are aware about it, they are tending to believe this is how the system works, or ignore as it is not crucial.

Hence, it is important as an employee, you should be aware of your rights and responsibilities. 

If you are in a workplace that shows any signs of a toxic workplace, or you know anyone, never settle in a toxic environment and get to know how to deal with it. Because you deserve better!


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