Company Culture

10+ signs of a toxic work environment

A toxic workplace is a recipe for disaster. In addition to making less money because unhappy employees are unproductive employees, it also costs more money to run because of the high churn rate created by a toxic culture. Do you know how to recognize the signs of a toxic work environment?

Some areas, like sales and customer service, will always have a higher churn rate than other areas of your business. 

And some generations don’t stay in the same position for as long as others. 

But it’s your job to create a culture that people want to be a part of. 

Not just because of the perks—which are turning into red flags for many people, for reasons we’ll look into—but because they believe in the business and its mission. 

And you pay people what they’re worth.

In this post, we’re going to explore some key signs of a toxic work environment–some subtle, some more obvious.

Too many perks

“Our employees are happy here. We have a pool table, free fruit, nap pods…”

Stop right there.

If you have any of those things, be very careful. 

Because so-called “perks” are increasingly becoming signs that you’d rather focus on things that encourage employees to stay in the office for longer, rather than paying them what they’re worth—and respecting the fact they have a life outside of work. 

Let’s not forget that embracing and enjoying a life outside of work is good for mental and physical health. Which also helps their working life.

You may think you’re making their lives easier by providing all these amenities. But are you really just asking them to stay in the office for longer? To work more hours?

Pay people what they’re worth instead of worrying about how many shiny objects you have in the office.

If you don’t, there are plenty of recruiters out there who’ll snap up your best employees. And it will be hard to convince new ones to join when they see all the signs of a toxic work environment during their interview.

Bad pay

The market rate for many industries is higher than it used to be right now because some industries are so hot. 

Keep an eye on these trends, because if you advertise a role that pays considerably less than your competition, you’re not going to attract the types of employees that you want. 

Employees are happier when employers pay them what they’re worth and appreciate them. It’s as simple as that.

Lack of diversity

Diverse workplaces are happier and more profitable. Saying that you’re worried a particular individual from an underrepresented community won’t fit in is just an excuse. Of course they won’t fit in—their lived experience is vastly different from everyone else’s!

It’s time to snap your business out of its groupthink before it does any further damage.

Diversity is where the real innovation comes from. That’s how you’ll grow your business faster—and stand out more from your competitors.


If there are rumors of discrimination within the workplace, listen and investigate

There’s no smoke without fire, as they say. 

If you don’t investigate it, it says to employees—and outsiders, if employees talk about what’s happened—that you don’t care how your employees are treated. 

It also implies that everyone can get away with putting themselves first and not thinking before they speak. It’s a culture like this that leads to a lack of respect between colleagues and discriminatory behavior. Lack of respect is one of the most serious signs of a toxic work environment.


Microaggressions may be small, but they can have big consequences

Always listen when someone reports microaggressions.

It can also help to train managers in what these look like so that they can spot the signs. 


Micromanagement is never okay. It’s anxiety-inducing for the employee on the receiving end of it, and it’s just a bad management style. 

If a manager feels the need to do this, either they need more management training, or the employee isn’t doing the job they were hired to do. Either way, you have a problem, and it may be one of the signs of a toxic work environment.

Dictation over discussions

No business should be a dictatorship. Organizations should value everyone’s opinions, regardless of how long they’ve been there or what their role is. 

Embracing as many opinions as possible is what will lead to the best problem solving.

Employees don’t last long

A high churn rate is one of the most glaring signs of a toxic work environment, especially if this happens among higher-paid staff. 

Those who are paid more know what they’re worth. They won’t stick around if they’re unhappy because they know they won’t have to wait long to find something else.

Nobody wants to do exit interviews 

Not every business does exit interviews, but if you do, and nobody ever turns up (or fills in the survey), it could be a sign they don’t feel their opinion is worth sharing. 

Some people don’t do them because they’re worried about burning bridges. This is still one of the signs of a toxic work environment because employees shouldn’t be concerned their employer will hold negative opinions they express against them. 

Regardless of what their feedback is, the organization should appreciate it and take it into consideration. It shouldn’t affect any references the company or their colleagues may give them.

Employees barely leave their desks

Employees should have regular screen breaks to give their eyes a rest and move their legs about. This helps to protect their eyesight and prevent muscle loss.

If organizations penalize employees for leaving their desks, this encourages unhealthy habits that can have long-term physical and mental health consequences.

Eating at their desk can also mean they have too much work and don’t have the time to take a break to eat their food and fully enjoy what they have for lunch. This can lead to employees eating more and gaining weight because the distraction of work means they’re less conscious of how much they’re eating.

Employees work unreasonable hours

Unless someone is scheduled for shift work, or works in certain industries, most employees shouldn’t have to work unreasonable or unsociable hours. They deserve time with their family, just like they deserve the money they’re paid for work. 

If employees do work longer hours to, say, finish a big project, make sure this is acknowledged and appreciated, and they’re compensated accordingly. 

Ignoring when someone has gone above and beyond is likely to mean they don’t stick around long enough to help with the next big project.


No one wants to work somewhere toxic. And I’m going to assume you don’t want to be in charge of a toxic workplace, either. 

If you spot any of these signs of a toxic work environment, it’s important to address them as quickly as possible. The sooner you do, the less likely they are to become a bigger problem.

Addressing these signs quickly also sends a clear message to everyone in your company that you support your employees and won’t tolerate any kind of toxic behavior.

If you’re concerned about toxicity in your workplace, consider checking out a platform like Workrowd. With tools to ensure every employee can find community and voice their opinions, you’re more likely to catch any signs of a toxic work environment early. If you’d like to learn more, email us at and we’ll be happy to set up some time to chat.

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