15 Signs You’re in a Toxic Work Environment

If you wake up every morning with a deep feeling of dread at the thought of going to work, you’re not alone. One report found that 53% of all Americans are unhappy at work. And considering that you spend so much of your life at your place of employment – around 92,000 hours total, assuming you start working at 18 and retire at 68 – that’s a sobering fact.

Sometimes you have no choice but to continue working in a less-than-ideal situation. But once you determine that your work life is contributing to your stress levels, you can take specific steps to correct the problem. Ahead, check out the signs you’re in a toxic work environment.

1. Your workload is unreasonable

Messy, chaotic file rack on a desk in cluttered room

Messy desk | AG-ChapelHill/iStock/Getty Images

Lots of people joke that they are expected to do the work of five people. But this common complaint is no joke – in fact, constantly being behind on work and never feeling like you can accomplish what’s expected of you in the allotted time can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.

If you find yourself staying late to catch up on projects every single week, then your workload is too much.

Next: You should always be paid for this.

2. You’re expected to work overtime without compensation

Working all night

Working all night | IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images

Working overtime can be a lucrative way to supplement your paycheck – but only if you choose to do so, and only if you’re properly compensated for the extra hours you put in. If you’re constantly expected to work longer than 8 hour shifts and you never get paid for it, that’s a sign of a toxic work environment.

Next: Be on the lookout for these symptoms.

3. You exhibit symptoms of anxiety at work

A woman with anxiety featured image

Anxiety is also a sign. | iStock.com/Viktor_Gladkov

Stomachaches, headaches, appetite changes, panic attacks – anxiety has many different causes and your work environment could be one of them. The physical responses you experience are your body’s natural way of telling you that something is wrong. If these symptoms persist as you’re getting ready to go to work, it’s an indication that your workplace is at least part of the problem.

Next: This type of behavior is toxic.

4. You notice bullying or harassment in the office

Hostility in the office

Hostility in the office | Bojan89/iStock/Getty Images

It doesn’t matter if you’re the victim or a bystander – observing bullying or harassment tactics at work affects everyone. You may notice things such as name-calling, bad attitudes toward certain individuals, or outright aggression and abuse. Even if you aren’t getting abused yourself, you may subconsciously realize that it could happen to you, too.

If you notice these behaviors, it’s important to talk to someone in human resources about what you’re seeing. The only way to fix the problem is to make it known.

Next: You’ll find this in any office, but too much is a problem.

5. There’s nonstop gossip

Businesswoman Being Gossiped About By Colleagues In Office

Office gossip | MachineHeadz/iStock/Getty Images

Almost every office has some amount of gossip, but that doesn’t mean you need to participate. Gossip leads to false rumors and creates an atmosphere of exclusion. The best way to combat this? Don’t stoop to their level. Instead of engaging in gossip conversations, try changing the subject or simply walking away. Your behavior can help set an example for everyone.

Next: This is a telltale sign of a toxic environment.

6. People keep quitting

Quitting your job

Quitting | AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images

You’re rarely the only one experiencing a toxic work environment – your fellow coworkers are most likely feeling the same stress you are. If you notice a mass exodus of people and can’t make it through the week without seeing another announcement that someone has quit, it could be an indication that your work environment isn’t healthy.

Next: Be on the lookout if these keep happening.

7. Layoffs are a regular occurrence


Layoffs | yacobchuk/iStock/Getty Images

Most major companies experience layoffs at some point – it’s just an unfortunate side effect of doing business. But if you notice layoffs are happening more frequently, it can become stressful to always wonder if you’re up next. Layoffs every year or worse, every quarter, also signifies a bigger issue with the company.

Next: If you’re doing this, you probably hate your job.

8. You’re always searching job boards

Online job searching on tablet

Job searching | scyther5/iStock/Getty Images

Do you catch yourself perusing job boards any time you have a spare moment? It might be a sign you’re very invested in finding something new. People who are happy with their jobs and who aren’t working in a toxic environment don’t waste time trying to find a new job.

Next: This seems like fun, but it can also be stressful.

9. You feel pressured into socializing with coworkers

Work happy hour

Happy hour | DGLimages/iStock/Getty Images

Whether it’s eating lunch with your team or going out after work for bowling, feeling like you need to get together with coworkers when you’re not on the clock can be stressful. It’s important to maintain good communication at work, but the expectation that those relationships should always extend past the office isn’t realistic – or good for your mental health.

Next: This person has a huge impact on morale.

10. Your boss isn’t happy

Angry upset employee

Upset boss | AntonioGuillem/iStock/Getty Images

Whether you realize it or not, your leader at work has a huge effect on morale. If your superior is constantly complaining or responding negatively to everything, then it’s natural that you and the rest of your team will start to mimic the same outlook. If your boss’s bad attitude keeps up, you may consider making a report to HR.

Next: This can make your self-esteem take a nosedive.

11. Everything you do gets criticized

Criticism at work

Criticism at work | fizkes/iStock/Getty Images

Constructive feedback helps you develop as an employee and as an individual. But if all you hear is negative comments about your performance, it can start to take a toll on your self-esteem and may make you not want to bother making an effort anymore. It could also discourage you from offering your opinions at meetings for fear of rejection as usual.

Next: These people will notice if your workplace is no good.

12. Your loved ones say you’ve changed

Crying woman with her concerned therapist

Concern | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/ Getty Images Plus

You may think you’re acting the same, but if friends and family members notice you seem sad or stressed lately, work might be to blame. Think about recent changes at your job – did you recently get a bad review, a new boss, or did the company go through a layoff? These changes can affect you more than you realize.

Next: Worrying about this can make you have work-related anxiety.

13. You’re constantly worried about being fired

Worried and sad student

Worried | Antonio Guillem/iStock/ Getty Images Plus

There are some companies where you can get fired at any time for any reason – that’s known as “at-will” employment. Still, getting fired without justification is rare. If you’re constantly living in dread that any day might be your last at your current company, then you’re probably dealing with a toxic work environment.

Next: It’s unrealistic for employers to expect this.

14. You’re expected to be available 24/7

young woman got bad news with her smart phone

On the phone | dragana991/Getty Images

Working in the modern age is so much different than it was 50 years ago. With email and smartphones, many employees are expected to be available even they’re not on the clock. This can add to stress and can even affect family relationships if you’re always working instead of being fully present during off hours. Even if this is common, that doesn’t make it right.

Next: This huge factor makes everyone in the company anxious.

15. The company isn’t performing well

Broken piggy bank with coins & hammer

Broken piggy bank | wpd911/iStock/Getty Images

Anyone who worked at a company that’s not meeting their financial goals can tell you: working there can be downright depressing. Healthy companies reward loyal employees with bonuses, time off, and other incentives. In contrast, struggling companies often go through layoffs and salary freezes. Everyone from your peers to members of upper management might seem discouraged, which keeps morale low and creates a negative work experience.