Signs of a Toxic Workplace and How to Deal with It

Nobody should be forced to endure the pain of a toxic workplace, yet millions of Americans labor day in and day out in harsh conditions that suppress their identities and submit them to countless injustices.

Rather than wallowing away in a toxic workplace and allowing your hostile coworkers to eat you and your potential alive, you need to learn to recognize the signs of a toxic workplace, so you can effectively deal with it.

Here are the signs of a toxic workplace, and the steps you’ll need to take in order to ensure a healthier work environment and brighter future for your career.

Signs of a Toxic Workplace

1. You’re Cut out of Communication

One of the earliest warning signs that you’re in the midst of a toxic workplace is that you’re finding yourself cut out of communication.

Many women and people of color in particular can attest to the fact that some workers will receive an email where a number of people are CC’d, only to respond to a selective number of the CC’d employees while leaving others in the dark.

Frequently, toxic coworkers will try to silence you or shut you out of the conversation entirely because they don’t want you to contribute ideas that may get you noticed instead of them.

Women at work should be particularly aware of this problem, as countless women in the workplace are familiar with sexist cultures that mitigate their ability to communicate effectively with the rest of the team. According to the Harvard Business Review, women need to take special steps to ensure they’re heard in the workplace rather than allowing toxicity to breed around them.((Harvard Business Review: Women at Work: Make Yourself Heard))

If you don’t learn to speak out when you’re getting cut out, you’re going to keep wallowing in isolation forever.

2. Others Take Credit for Your Ideas

Everyone who’s been working for a few years is familiar with the infuriating circumstance where you put forward a new idea, get a lacklustre response, and then witness your coworkers steal your idea and receive credit for themselves.

Colleagues who take credit for your work are more than merely frustrating – it can be downright stressful and even threatening to your career.

Learning how to subvert your colleague’s efforts to make off with your ideas and claim them for your own is an important part of conquering a toxic work environment.

Focus on immediately setting the record straight and learn how to take credit proudly for your own work,((Be Leaderly: How to Shut Down a Colleague Who Takes Credit for Your Work)) and you’ll soon discover that your workplace is noticeably less toxic and insufferable than before.

Besides watching out for greedy coworkers who are eager to steal your ideas, you should also be on the lookout for signs of a toxic workplace like…

3. You’re Not Being Fairly Compensated

One of the biggest warning signs that you’re in a toxic workplace is that you’re not being fairly compensated for the hard work, you’re putting in on behalf of your boss.

Far too many companies manage to get by with paying their employees criminally low salaries, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit down and quietly endure tiny paychecks that don’t match the effort you put in every day.

Wage gaps can be an incredibly difficult thing to approach, however, with many employees having struggled and failed to attain a raise despite their hard work and pristine records.

It’s imperative to understand that you can’t sit idly by and allow a gender pay gap or any other sort of pay discrepancies exist in your workplace – if your boss can exploit some of his or her employees, there’s little to stop your boss from exploiting all of them.

You need to understand that getting fairly compensated is about more than blaming your coworkers when they receive higher salaries than you. Overcoming the pay gap in the workplace requires the constant vigilance of everyone in the office, as you need to stand together in the fight for a good day’s payment for an honest day’s work.((Glassdoor: What to Do About a Pay Gap at Your Workplace))

How to Deal with a Toxic Workplace

Learn How to Negotiate

Now that you’ve come to recognize the gravest warning signs of a toxic workplace, you need to start equipping yourself with the tools and skills needed to reshape your workplace culture.

Learning how to negotiate is a great place to start, as you’ll quickly discover that you need to argue your boss’ ear off if you’re going to get meaningful concessions from them.

Effective communication is the first step in winning any negotiation – you need to clearly establish what you’re seeking from the other party.

If your boss is harassing you, for instance, or if your coworkers are making you feel uncomfortable and stealing your yogurt, you need to make it quite clear that things need to improve quickly and suddenly; or you’re finding employment elsewhere.

Never forget that you have rights and privileges which can’t be revoked just because your boss wants to earn an extra penny or two.

You’ll want to speak with your coworkers to see if they’re suffering from any issues related to workplace toxicity, too. You can make a much more effective case to your company’s senior officials that change is sorely overdue if you have the backing of most of the workforce.

Oftentimes, your boss may be entirely unaware of the fact that a number of his or her employees are struggling in the first place.

Become an Advocate for Change

You need to become an advocate for change in the workplace by modeling the better way to do business. Rather than shunning your coworkers, for instance, you should be welcoming them with open arms and trying to instill a cheery nature in your office.

Workers who don’t get along with one another are unlikely to overcome workplace toxicity together, after all.

Becoming an advocate for change also necessitates that you keep your ego in check – you may not want to admit it, but your coworkers may be egged on towards toxic behavior as a natural response to unfriendly behavior originating from your cubicle.

Learn to calm down and take a glass of clean water to help you relax. It can be quite easy to accidentally offend a coworker without ever realizing it, for instance, so constant self-awareness and an ability to detect your own mistakes is an essential part of overcoming workplace toxicity for good.

If you feel that you got off on the wrong foot with a certain coworker and are struggling to deal with their toxicity,((Harvard Business Review: 4 Ways to Deal With a Toxic Coworker)) you may need to talk to your boss or HR to mediate some conflict resolution between you two.

It’s also important for you to understand that workplace toxicity doesn’t only happen in the workplace – a boss who demands you keep working and check your emails after you’ve clocked out for the day, for instance, is creating a toxic workplace that follows you into your home environment.

Becoming an advocate for positive change means you must recognize the way that our work sometimes chases us out of the office and hounds us even in the midst of our personal lives.

Summing It up

In conclusion, you need to keep an open eye out for harassment in the workplace while also realizing you can contribute to the toxicity of others with unfriendly behavior.

Once you’ve recognized workplace toxicity, talk to our fellow coworkers and establish a game plan for raising the issue with your boss.

Finally, don’t let yourself get burned out in fighting workplace toxicity – after all, treating yourself with respect and giving yourself some occasional time off is the only way to ensure you don’t become toxic yourself.

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