I’m pretty sure we’ve all had a job or two we didn’t really enjoy. After all, it’s kind of unrealistic to expect that every single job we get in life would be a dream one.
But while every job has its own downsides, there are a few that really cross over into toxic territory.
How exactly do you know if your job is toxic for you?
In this article, I’ll share nine warning signs it is.
But before I do, I’d like to note that not every bad day means you’re in a toxic environment. We all have those bad days, so the key is to check if these signs are persistent.
Let’s dive in!
1) You’re constantly stressed
Does your job feel like you’re perpetually on a hamster wheel? Do you find your heart racing or feel the stress building up, even when you’re not at work?
Your stress level is always a great way to check if you’re in the right place, work-wise.
It’s completely normal to have some stress in any job from time to time. Deadlines and extra-difficult challenges are all part and parcel of the workplace.
And in fact, stress can be a great motivator that pushes us to do better and see what we’re capable of.
But – there’s a fine line between healthy and toxic stress. Here are some signs that should indicate it has become too much:
- Physical health issues (headaches, stomach problems, weak immune system)
- Mental health issues (anxiety, depression, and burnout)
- Mood swings and increased irritability
- Sleep disruption
- No work-life balance
- Feeling overwhelmed all the time
Not a pretty picture, is it? I’ve experienced that kind of stress myself, and it was a harsh wake-up call for me.
These days, I’m all about checking in with myself and learning ways to manage stress.
And I always keep this in mind – no job is ever worth dying for.
2) You’re constantly micromanaged
This is easily one of the most common reasons for excessive stress in the workplace. Imagine being watched and micromanaged every minute of the day…that’s enough to drive anyone nuts!
I once had a job with a micromanaging boss. Not only was it annoying and awkward, but more importantly, I felt stifled.
I felt like the boss didn’t trust me enough, nor was I free to think up creative solutions to problems.
It didn’t take long for me to see that I wasn’t going to grow and be the best I could be in that place.
See, a healthy work environment is one that gives you the space to own your work. To flex your skills and learn new ones. To push yourself to new heights.
How can you do that if your boss is hyper-critical and controlling?
3) There is a high turnover rate
I assure you, any company with micromanaging higher-ups is bound to have a high turnover rate.
And that’s a real red flag.
Aside from micromanaging or poor management in general, there may also be other issues at work, such as:
- Low compensation
- Limited career growth opportunities
- Lack of work-life balance
There are so many more factors affecting turnover, but this should paint a general picture about the supportiveness of a workplace.
And the problem is, the instability can leave you feeling uneasy all the time, wondering if you’re the next person to leave or get replaced.
If that sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s time to consider if you’re in the right place?
4) There’s a culture of fear
That feeling of uneasiness? That adds an element of fear to your work life. That can’t be healthy.
Aside from that, look at the general atmosphere at work. Are you – and everybody else – afraid of speaking up or making a mistake?
I once worked at a job where all of us, not just me, were scared of voicing our opinions and concerns. We were all “yes-people” because the boss was the type to take it personally whenever someone spoke up.
Look, a great workplace should never make you feel afraid. It should excite you and be a space for growth, not fear.
Because think about it – do you really want to spend eight hours (or more) day in and day out feeling scared?
That’s a huge chunk of your life. If you ask me, that’s no way to live!
5) Your accomplishments go unnoticed
Another way a job can be toxic is if your achievements are often overlooked. It may not be as in-your-face as the other signs on this list, but it’s toxic nonetheless.
Leadership experts know that positive reinforcement is one of the most powerful leadership tools. It’s what infuses life into a workplace and turns it from drab to humming and brimming with innovation!
It’s pretty simple: rewarding good performance results in the repetition of that performance. We aim to do better when we’re told we’re doing well.
So, in that light, it’s easy to see how demoralizing it can be when the great things you do go unnoticed while your mistakes are highlighted.
6) There’s a lack of clear communication
What if your job feels like a crazy rollercoaster? One minute you’re cruising along, doing your work quietly…then the next, you find out about last-minute changes that hurl you into a vortex of chaos?
Or what if your tasks aren’t quite clear and you’re never sure if you’re on the right track?
When I was in a job like this, I often felt confused and stressed – unnecessarily so, I felt. The lack of clear communication made me feel like I was always second-guessing myself.
Then I moved to another job, where my tasks were clearly outlined and I was always kept in the loop regarding any changes or plans. It felt like a breath of fresh air after that murky maze I’d been through!
There’s no getting around it, effective communication is crucial in a workplace. If your job can’t even manage to do that, best to look elsewhere for more stress-free days.
7) There’s a lot of office gossip
Speaking of communication brings me to one of the worst forms of communication you could ever encounter in a workplace – gossip.
Office gossip can be incredibly toxic and damaging. You’d think that as adults, we would know better by now than to act like high schoolers, right?
But it looks like some people still find gossip entertaining since I have friends who’ve suffered from the stress office gossip brings.
A professional environment should be just that – professional. Even if you don’t engage in gossip yourself, it can still leave you feeling tired.
Because it’s toxic energy, and you know how energy can be contagious. It creates an atmosphere of tension and divisiveness, and that’s something you’re absorbing even if you don’t want to.
8) Your work-life balance is non-existent
Ah, work-life balance. The holy grail of practically everybody who holds down a job.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a job that pays the bills and leaves you with enough free time to tend to your personal life? To have a life where you’re productive yet have the freedom to relax and be with family?
The reality is, many of us are stuck in a cycle of working late hours and answering calls and emails on our days off.
Just stop doing it, some people might say.
But you know what? It’s not that easy to knock it off, especially if you feel like it would get you fired.
However, health experts don’t constantly talk about work-life balance just because it’s a buzzword. No, it’s because it’s essential to our health, period.
You need time for yourself, your loved ones, and your interests outside of work. A life that revolves around your career isn’t doing you any favors. It’s going to make your overall quality of life go downhill pretty quickly.
As Dolly Parton once said, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”
9) You dread going to work
Ever heard of the Sunday Scaries? That feeling that’s not quite dread, but also not far off from it? This is perhaps the most significant warning sign.
Having the Sunday Scaries is perfectly normal, but only if you feel them from time to time. But if it’s every single Sunday…that’s your gut telling you that your job might be toxic for you.
As I mentioned earlier, what you do for a living should excite you. Or at the very least (because I know that sometimes we have that job because we need it, not because we like it), it shouldn’t make you miserable.
So, if you dread the thought of going to work, take it as a sign. It might be time to tidy up your resume and start searching for a job that brings you satisfaction rather than anxiety.
If there’s anything this list should show you, it’s the importance of checking in with yourself and trusting your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
I know it’s easy to feel trapped in the daily grind. The need to make ends meet sometimes forces us into circumstances we don’t want to be in.
But I just want to say that change is always possible. You don’t have to stay in a toxic, dead-end job forever.
Somewhere out there is a workplace that will let you bloom, let you shine and be the best you can be. Without the overwhelming stress!