Hays UK jobs and employment blog


Signs of a toxic workplace and how to escape 

By Hays Experts



The word ‘toxic’ is perhaps overused these days, but it’s almost certainly one you’ve heard used when people are describing their workplace. Punishing hours, office politics, infighting and hard-to-handle bosses are all likely to be damaging to employee morale, particularly as their effect is cumulative. This can amount to a workplace culture that’s detrimental to everyone.

There are a number of things that contribute to a toxic work culture, so if any of the below sound familiar to you and are having a negative impact on your wellbeing, it’s definitely a sign that you should take action:

Cliques, isolation and exclusion

Feeling isolated or excluded in the workplace on a sustained basis can be deeply upsetting. Similarly, if you notice a blame culture in teams, with no genuine friendships amongst employees and everyone looking out for themselves rather than helping each other, that can be devastating to morale. Ambition has its place in every workplace, but it should not come at the expense of decency and respect for others.

Promotions and pay rises are inconsistent

The prospect for progression is integral to employee motivation, and a lack of it can foster a damaging culture of resentment and animosity, particularly if certain employees are clearly shown favouritism over others. Treating all staff members with fairness and honesty, rather than just a few, is vital to collectively galvanise teams into performing at their very best. To do otherwise results in a homogenised workforce, which simultaneously depletes innovation, impacts diversity and lowers morale.

An unreasonable boss

There’s nothing worse than feeling as though you can’t do anything right. If you’re constantly working hard with little to no positive feedback and no recognition whatsoever from your manager, cracks are bound to appear both in your enthusiasm for the job and willingness to work hard.

High employee turnover

If there is a constantly revolving door at your work, take it as a warning sign. When a workplace has nothing to offer except criticism, a poor work-life balance and low morale, people will soon start looking for a better situation, and you may find that you want to join them.

If any of the above are sounding familiar to you, you may want to consider the below solutions:

1. Try to instigate change
If you feel that there is the potential for improvement in your workplace culture perhaps you can engineer some kind of change before considering upping sticks? This may involve having a conversation with your colleagues or manager and asking for what you think needs to improve. Pay close attention to the response you get and gauge whether your concerns are being taken seriously and if any action is being taken.

2. Contemplate a sideways move
If you’re having trouble with the working culture within your team specifically, perhaps think about whether a sideways move is possible. It may require a slight repositioning of your career direction but with different team members, a more understanding manager or more manageable working hours, your passion for the work and the organisation could be completely revitalised.

3. Begin planning your exit strategy
Should things really fail to improve and you feel unable to stay, don’t feel guilty for leaving to find a new challenge. Sometimes life is just too short and searching for a new job will help you to stay positive and give you focus if you’re having a tough time at work. If you feel completely unable to continue at your current organisation, consider looking for a temp job to bridge the gap until you can find something you’re more suited to.

If you’re thinking about beginning your journey to your next role, search our list of newly added jobs, or alternatively, check out our latest career advice

About this author

Beginning life in 1968 with just a handful of employees, Hays how has over 7,800 recruiting specialists worldwide, including 1,800 in the UK. Our consultants are experts in their field, helping professionals advance their careers, and organisations find the right talent.


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