Work is a major part of life, dictating one's daily schedule, professional goals, financial status, and much more. Finding a job that one loves can be essential in creating a healthy, balanced life. However, for many, a job is something that is done to help make ends meet or to pay for bills, groceries, rent, and other necessities.
Depending on the job, the work environment can change drastically, and while some can be supportive and understanding, others can be toxic and detrimental to a person's mental and emotional health, even affecting their personal life off the clock. Identifying the elements and effects of a toxic work environment can empower each individual to better manage their health while informing necessary decisions for their emotional resilience in the workplace.
The Detriments of a Toxic Work Environment
Toxic work environments come in many forms, but their effects on one's health are universal. Anxiety and depression can be prevalent, and an individual may dread going to the workplace for a myriad of reasons. Truly toxic work environments can cause an individual to question their sense of self-worth and personal goals. Furthermore, they can come with extreme amounts of stress, anger, frustration, and more.
As a result, it is common that those working in these toxic environments find any way possible to release this exorbitant amount of pent-up emotional duress, commonly leading to the use of drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Other unhealthy coping mechanisms can also surface, such as gambling. One's time outside the workplace can still be polluted by depression, anxiety, or other mental health consequences as one's frustrations continue to dictate their mental state, leading to self-isolation and even self-deprecating practices.
Because work is such a major part of life, it is important to monitor how one's job affects each individual both inside and outside of the professional environment.
Some toxic elements may be able to be addressed within the workplace atmosphere and can change accordingly. However, other environments may be too detrimental for an individual and may require them to distance themselves or find alternative employment in order to continue prioritizing their health.
Identifying a Toxic Work Environment
Not all toxic work environments will look the same, and there can be different degrees of toxicity, as well as different ways that such toxicity presents itself. However, there are always signs that an environment may come with emotional turmoil. While no job is without its degree of stress, certain environments are much worse than others and can cause the development of unhealthy, destructive coping strategies, making continued employment itself a risk to one's health.
High Turnover Rate
There can be many reasons for a high turnover rate within a particular job. However, high turnover rates can sometimes indicate that many have struggled in a particular workplace environment. This is perhaps through an overly strict, micromanaging managerial style or by the unfair treatment of workers' time, such as forcing individuals to compromise their lunch breaks or forced overtime.
However, not all high-turnover jobs will necessarily fall into this trap. Some positions may be temporary, seasonal, or are taken as part-time addendums to cover an expense and are not designed for a prolonged career. Knowing that a particular job has a high turnover rate can prompt each individual to be more vigilant for other signs of toxicity within a work environment.
Working in Fear of Punishment
Motivating workers is a difficult thing to do, and while some jobs can motivate employees to be their best and celebrate accomplishments, others operate by instilling a fear of punishment for failure. These two camps carry incredibly different connotations for one's mental health. This ladder is entirely based on negative punishment looming over the heads and dragging employees to meet certain quotas. These jobs may also define an individual's effectiveness through hard numbers and statistics rather than addressing progress or a personal element to the position, compromising one's identity in the process.
Not only can this be an incredibly tense, fearful atmosphere, but also one that detracts from one's other skills and personality as a whole, making it a very self-destructive atmosphere to operate in. For some, this can lead to wholly unmotivated workers, or motivated for emotionally trying reasons.
Pay Attention to Gossip and Distrust
Gossip and distrust can be sewn into the workplace foundations, and often indicate an atmosphere of cutthroat competition over interpersonal support and betterment. These environments are rarely backed by trust. The presence of an abundance of gossip at others' expense can create a feeling of isolation and an overall lack of support from the workplace itself.
Consistent Lack of Communication
Communication is crucial in any workplace, and a lack of communication between employees, and especially a lack of communication between workers and management, can lead to a number of unfair situations. Expectations can be muddied, and often breed further frustration and blame.
These unclear expectations can also cause an individual to be unfairly disciplined or judged on a metric that was never made transparent. While some miscommunications may be unavoidable, persistent miscommunication can be a sign of dangerous, unseen stressors and responsibilities.