Toxic Workplace Checklist

Having survived a number of toxic workplaces myself, I have deep compassion for others who are currently stuck in the sludge.

I put together a list that covers some common characteristics of toxic workplaces.  It’s not exhaustive, and your workplace can be toxic even if none of these things are happening.  And just because a few of these things might be happening at your workplace doesn’t mean it is necessarily toxic.

How many of these do you recognize in your workplace?

  • Other people take credit for your accomplishments.
  • You’re doing the jobs of multiple people, or your role used to be filled by more than one person.
  • The company has high turnover. 
  • Your bosses love showing off their power. 
  • You are being micromanaged.
  • You are publicly called out, guilted, or humiliated.
  • Feedback or requests for changes are dismissed or ignored.
  • Higher-ups take employee work performance personally.
  • Your coworkers are frequently miserable or crabby.  
  • You or other people are being bullied by a boss or coworker.
  • People have stopped taking their jobs seriously.
  • Rumors.
  • Gossip.
  • Cliques.
  • A constant stream of drama.
  • You feel like you have to defend yourself a lot.
  • You dread the idea of going to work.
  • You’re complaining about work a lot. To anyone who will listen.
  • You have tried to convince yourself that things aren’t that bad.
  • You don’t feel supported by your superiors and/or coworkers (or feel actively sabotaged).
  • Your boss has held you back from a promotion because they “don’t want to lose you.”
  • There is a clear pattern of favoritism that goes beyond natural workplace relationship fluctuations.
  • You’re not proud of the work you are doing/producing.
  • You’re frequently physically ill (colds, flu, flares of chronic illnesses, etc.).
  • Your mental health feels like it has taken a nosedive.
  • Your friends, family, or partner have told you to quit your job, or to stop talking/complaining about work so much.
  • You feel like you have a bad attitude that doesn’t go away when you leave the office or workplace.
  • Your boundaries are not respected.
  • You feel harassed.
  • You can’t wait to have a drink at night to de-stress.
  • Your thoughts and ideas are ignored.
  • You frequently feel confused.
  • Communication and transparency are poor or non-existent.
  • Your bosses get defensive when you give them feedback (even if they asked for it).
  • It feels like you are in competition (or you are actively in competition) with your coworkers.
  • Deadlines are arbitrary and change frequently, or are never set in the first place.
  • Meetings almost always feel like a waste of time.
  • There is not a clear vision for the company, or your role within it.
  • You frequently think, “Why bother.”
  • There are illegal, unethical, or immoral things happening within the organization.
  • You have been shamed for taking time off of work.
  • People do not take responsibility for their actions.
  • You do not feel like your boss trusts you to do your job.
  • You barely ever see your bosses face-to-face (if you work in a physical location).
  • New rules, policies, and procedures show up out of nowhere, and/or are implemented with little or no explanation.
  • You consistently feel left out of the loop.
  • You get little or no feedback about your performance (and when you do it’s usually negative).
  • Your time is not respected.  You are frequently asked or expected to come in on weekends, your days off, or to stay late.
  • People yell or raise their voices.
  • You feel fear while at work because of the people or the environment.
  • You don’t feel like you can go to your bosses with concerns or issues.
  • Actions do not reflect the stated values of the company or your managers.
  • “Us-versus-Them Mentality” – Ex: Management vs. Employees, Employees vs. Employees.
  • Overt or covert discrimination, bias, bigotry (racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.), and microaggressions.
  • You might describe your boss as self-centered, egotistical, or narcissistic. 
  • There are not clear expectations around your role or tasks.
  • Things feel unfair, or rules are not applied to everyone in the same way.
  • People are sending rude or derogatory emails to or about other people in the company.
  • You’re not allowed to take breaks.
  • You feel disrespected.
  • There are no opportunities for input on your work or your role.
  • Your bosses schedule meetings without informing you of their agenda or content, causing you to be unprepared. 
  • You are not given the resources necessary to do your job.
  • Your boss talks negatively about other coworkers in front of you.
  • You’re questioning your own value or worth.
  • There is infrequent recognition (including raises or opportunity for growth).
  • You are expected to be “on-call” or available all the time.
  • You’re told or it is implied that you’re lucky to have a job.
  • Your gut says something is off.  

What other things are happening at your workplace that might be toxic?

A toxic workplace is a systemic issue; it goes beyond any one bad manager or annoying coworker. If you’re operating in a toxic workplace, the goal is to survive long enough until you can leave. Until then, take care of yourself as a way to give a big F U to the system that wants to keep you stressed, scared, overworked, and underappreciated.

Toxic workplace taking a toll on your mental health? Find a good therapist, and check back soon for Ashley’s upcoming book on surviving toxic work environments.

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