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5 Signs You’re Working in a Toxic Environment

By Dr. Craig Dike

Many people work in a healthy, productive environment with clear communication, positive collaboration, and strong leadership that understands how to create great results. If you work in an environment like that, you probably feel valued and take pride in your work.

But what if you don’t? Sometimes workplaces seem to breed hostility and conflict. If you’re feeling overly stressed about work, you might be stuck in a “toxic” workplace.

Here are five warning signs of a toxic work environment to watch out for:

1. There is poor communication.
Are you missing important information that allows you to do your job? Perhaps you’re not receiving feedback about your performance, or only negative feedback with no constructive suggestions. Most toxic workplaces suffer from lack of clear communication or only negative communication.

2. Bad attitudes are abundant.
No one loves working in a toxic workplace. If everyone around you at work is miserable, that’s a good indicator that something is wrong. When worker morale is low, turnover is usually high.

3. Office gossip is rampant.
When your co-workers are whispering by the water cooler, your workplace can feel like the scary cafeteria back in high school. Office gossip, unfriendly competition, and rampant rumors are sure signs of a toxic or overly stressful environment.

4. Your coworker is a bully.
If your coworker or boss is controlling, negative, and wields power in unhealthy ways, you might be working in a stressfully toxic environment. Perhaps they take credit for your work or expect you to come in even when you’re sick. This type of boss makes you feel that nothing you do is ever good enough, and is a sure path to feeling overwhelmed and burnt-out.

5. You feel drained after work, and dread going back.
The best indicator that your work environment is toxic is how you feel physically and emotionally after spending time there. If you are exhausted, drained, and emotionally distraught, that’s a bad sign.

If you experience physical symptoms frequently at, or getting ready for work like chronic nausea, hair loss, skin problems, heaviness in your chest, chronic headaches, or trouble sleeping, then it’s possible your body is trying to tell you something: your work environment in unhealthy for you. While all of these signs are distressing, you can find healthy ways to manage your response to stress. The first step to detoxifying from any stressful situation is to recognize the unhealthy patterns that surround you.

Speaking with a neutral third party can be very helpful here. A licensed psychologist can help you not only recognize the toxic patterns in your workplace, but make a plan for how to improve the situation or move on.

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dr-craig-dikeDr. Craig Dike earned his doctorate in clinical psychology at the University of Indianapolis in Indianapolis, Indiana. He completed his internship training at the Texas State University Counseling Center and his post-doctoral training at San Diego VA specializing in psychiatric rehabilitation and evidence based interventions for severe mental illness. His theoretical orientation is primarily cognitive-behavioral with third-wave influences. He is skilled in the application of empirically-supported group and individual treatments for anxiety, mood, and psychotic disorders. Dr. Dike has clinical and research interests in: metacognition, meditation, behavioral/functional genomics, biopsychosocial models of psychosis, recovery oriented interventions, neurobiology of psychological change, exposure based treatments for anxiety disorders, and CBT for psychosis. In his free time Dr. Dike enjoys spending time with his children, family and friends, traveling, listening to music, hiking and enjoying nature, discovering great local restaurants, and watching his favorite sports of American and English football.