Toxic relationships are nothing new. Last year, we gobbled up the interview between Kim Cattrall and Piers Morgan, in which she labelled the relationship with her Sex and The City co-stars as “toxic”.
Most of us are familiar with toxic relationships on a personal level too; we’ve struggled with romantic relationships that make us feel insecure and unvalued, we’ve warned friends of their manipulative partners over one too many Sunday brunch mimosas, and we’ve experienced an envy and drama-fuelled friendship that rivals Cady Heron and Regina George from Mean Girls.
But while we’re very familiar with the signs of a toxic relationship at home, we often forget that these signs can apply to our workplace too.
“The toxicity of any work relationship always comes back to the people,” says Skye London, the founder and lead career coach of Y Executive, a coaching firm that acts as a “personal trainer for your career”.
“Whether it be the leadership team, the person taking credit for your work or the gossip and office politics, a toxic workplace can make you feel trapped and manipulated. It can wreak havoc on your sense of self-worth and confidence – just like a toxic friendship or romantic relationship.”
Over the past year, more and more employees have come forward to expose toxic companies. Uber was accused of harassment and discrimination as part of their “bro-centric culture”. Google’s employees were locked in a “dirty war over diversity” with hundreds of internal emails and message board postings revealing gender racism and political violence.
And in September 2017, a group of clients and former employees came forward to blow the whistle on Macquarie Bank with claims of “up-skirting” (taking photos underneath women’s skirts), drink spiking and rampant drug taking. One female employee even reported her ponytail was chopped off while she was sitting at her desk.
While it appears the toxic jobs are all hanging out in the tech and banking industries, Skye maintains these cultures don’t discriminate.
“Toxic workplaces are across all industries and professions. Also, it isn’t necessarily more common for women to experience toxicity in the workplace, but from what I’ve seen they often end up staying in the environment longer.”
“One of my clients took a long time to quit her job because she was certain she wouldn’t get the same flexibility or pay elsewhere. Her manager would tell her she was 'lucky to be able to work from home' and 'she was on a great salary considering how much experience she has'.
“The more times someone tells you you’re not going to do better anywhere else, the more you start to believe it.”
Skye goes on to share her major red flags and warns that if you can answer yes to any of them, your workplace is most likely toxic.
1. Your voice isn’t heard – EVER!
Have you ever contributed great ideas only to have them shut down? Not having your voice heard is not only a sign of a toxic job, but also a sign that your manager might be toxic too.
2. You’re not set up for success
This is where you haven’t been given what you need to be successful in your job. Its things like unachievable targets, unrealistic workloads or not having the tools to get the job done.
3. Your manager is rubbish and they aren’t about to change
If your manager is aggressive or immature, if they ignore you or if they are incompetent, then they are part of the problem. A toxic job doesn’t work without a toxic manager.
4. Promises are being broken
Not honouring promises breaks trust and just like any relationship, once you have lost trust it’s almost impossible to get it back.
5. There is a lot of gossip and office politics
You will experience gossip and office politics in almost every work environment. What makes it toxic is the amount, what is being said and how it is being handled.
6. There are changes happening but no one is talking about them
If one day you go to an all staff meeting only to find out that your senior manager has been replaced, or if you find out there is a new process only when you have completed it “the old way”, then this is going to amplify the toxicity.
7. Everyone around you is miserable
There is a real lack of enthusiasm, there’s no drive and it seems like no one wants to be there. Misery loves company and this kind of behaviour fuels a toxic job.
8. You hate going to work
You can’t put your finger on exactly what it is but there is something about heading into work that makes your stomach sink. If this is you, I recommend considering your next career move.
Find yourself nodding along to any of these signs? Skye has some advice for you.
“I recommend beginning the job search process as soon as you are aware that you are in a toxic job,” she says.
“The longer you stay, the more likely it is going to end badly. If you wait, it can turn nasty, or you might find yourself so desperate you start burning bridges, making mistakes with your work or even leaving without a job to go to.
“There’s not enough money in the world to suffer going to work in a role that doesn’t deserve you.”