Ever feel like you're walking on egg shells at work? Your opinions don't matter, you're afraid of making mistakes, and the culture is one of fear and intimidation.
Most likely, if you're coming home complaining to your spouse about work almost daily, and you're beginning to feel physical symptoms of stress (perhaps unbeknownst to you because you think, "no big deal"), it may be time to admit that your work is a terrible, toxic, place to be.
Not sure? Here are six sure ways of knowing if your workplace is undeniably toxic.
1. Your manager is a control freak.
This person micromanages to the last detail. The situation is overbearing and stifling, because he or she wants control over decisions. He or she distrusts the team and doesn't delegate; there's no room for group discussion or input because the leadership style is autocratic. In turn, creativity or learning something new is absent under this dictatorship. The motto is: Just take your marching orders and report back.
2. People play the blame game.
You've probably heard the saying, "For every finger you point, there's three pointing back at you." At such a company, you'll find colleagues lacking in personal accountability -- often a character issue -- and throwing blame grenades at each other. If this is your company and you're caught in the middle of a minefield, your best option (short of quitting) for conflict management is to rise above it: Point out the specific behavior in question, don't personalize the issue (be objective), communicate assertively and state the facts, and document everything that goes on.
3. You can't trust anybody as far as you can throw them.
In a volatile and politically charged culture of distrust where people form alliances and managers pit employees against one another, it's not safe to disclose information or work in close collaboration. Job survival in this tense competitive environment is day to day, owing to the unpredictability of the place. Trusting your peers is risky--they may really be your enemies. Trusting your manager is just corporate suicide. Consider updating your résumé because, if you have any integrity left, you may be on your own.
4. Gossip is killing morale.
You know who they are--most likely disgruntled workers who didn't get something their way, disagreed with a change of direction and are now holding grudges, or didn't get that promotion they felt entitled to. They are quick to gossip, and even quicker to hammer leadership for "dumb decisions." Keep a close eye on them. They spread their tumor by enlisting others into their negative spin campaign. They'll also be sure to befriend those innocent new hires to vilify someone or something.
5. Watch for two-faced brown nosers.
Ever seen colleagues who kiss up to management to win favors, usually at your expense? You know them well -- they'll go out of their way to befriend and manipulate management in order to negotiate preferential treatment. Things like undue pay raises, training, extra time off, or special perks that nobody else knows about or gets. Keep an eye out for colleagues that spend way more face time with their managers than usual. The wheels of manipulation and favoritism may be in motion.
6. People are treated like numbers.
From a senior management perspective, employees are viewed as worker bees and considered to be objects or expenses rather than assets; there is little concern for their happiness or well-being. After all, the motive for hiring them was purely for productivity and profit. There's little evidence of leaders' compassion and empathy in seeing employees as valued human beings. As a result, you'll encounter high levels of stress, turnover, absenteeism, and burnout.