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8 Signs of a Toxic Workplace

Let’s face it. Burnout is a real issue in today’s fast-paced, competitive environment. And with 70% of America’s workforce feeling disengaged, it is clearly not just an individual problem.

Although personal characteristics do come into play, your work environment is one of the greatest predictors of whether or not you will develop burnout. If your work environment is toxic, no amount of self-care practices can protect you from the harmful effects. And once you are burned out, the physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy leak into other areas of your life, impacting your relationships and your overall well-being.

Environmental Risk Factors

  1. Your job is very demanding. You are constantly being pulled in many directions, always rushing to meet deadlines, or do not have sufficient support to complete your tasks.*

  2. You have little or no control over your work environment. You have little autonomy to do your job or have unclear or ambiguous goals, making it impossible to succeed. Perhaps your supervisor is micromanager who is constantly breathing down your neck.*

  3. There is no sense of community at work. Your significant work relationships are unfulfilling (including with your boss, supervisor, or colleagues) and you don’t feel like you are a part of a team. Perhaps your supervisor is rude or your colleagues are adversarial. In some cases, you may be a victim or a witness of workplace bullying, harassment, or other abuse.

  4. Your values do not match that of your company or your profession. Perhaps you witnessed or were asked to do something that goes against your moral code.

  5. You don’t feel appreciated. You are under-compensated or are rarely recognized for your significant contributions. Your supervisor rarely says “Thank You” or rewards you for a job well done.

  6. Your company does not treat employees fairly or consistently. You observe nepotism, favoritism, or other forms of preferential treatment. Your company is not transparent or uses arbitrary criteria in deciding promotions, salary raises, benefits, etc.

  7. You don’t feel secure in your position because your company has had a lot of layoffs. Perhaps you don’t feel safe at work or you work in a profession where you regularly put your life at risk.

  8. You feel powerless to make change. Perhaps your company has an HR department or a formal process for complaints, but they just do lip-service and nothing ever changes.

*When you work in a high-demand and low-control work environment, you are are highest risk for burnout.

So should I just quit?

A common misconception is that simply leaving that particular work environment will resolve the symptoms. Logically, this makes sense - if your dysfunctional company is the culprit, quitting your job will make you feel better. Unfortunately, this is not the reality.

Once a person is burned out, symptoms don’t just go away with a change of scenery. This is because burnout takes a huge toll on you physically and psychologically. It develops cumulatively over a long period of time - sometimes years - and therefore is not easily resolved over night.

The best way to combat burnout is to stop it in its tracks. By understanding the factors that may be putting you at risk, you can take proper steps to create a work environment where you can thrive to the benefit of you and your employer. However, keep in mind that some companies are simply too toxic, and you may be powerless to effect change. Don’t make any impulse decisions, but be sure to talk to an objective third party and weigh the pros and cons.


If this sounds like your place of work and you would like to learn more about strategies to prevent or battle burnout, come to one of my upcoming workshops, or sign up for my free monthly newlsetter.

If you are a corporate client and would like to learn how to protect your employees from burnout, please contact me for more information about seminars and on-site training.

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