12 Signs You are Working in a Toxic Office

How dysfunctional is your workplace?

businessman looking upset ...
Shutterstock / juan carlos tinjaca

Working in a toxic office is bad news: your health suffers, you're edgy and irritable and you dread going into the office each day. However, those symptoms aren't the only signs that you need to find a new job. Here are 12 signs you work in an office with a poor work culture.

1. Your boss is a recognized bully.
When the senior leader's behavior resembles a "what not to do at work" checklist, you know you're in trouble. This could come in the form of sexual harassment, practical jokes frequently targeting one person or otherwise racist, sexist or homophobic comments. If the boss often berates employees or publicly intimidates them, and no one does anything to prevent or curb the behavior, it's likely the office is toxic.

2. Co-workers frequently gang up on each other.
When one person harasses another, even when they are equals, there are no consequences and no one else seems to think it is a problem, it's difficult to get comfortable at work.

3. It's not unusual for co-workers or your boss to take credit for your work.
This is not only frustrating, but it can cost you a promotion or a raise. You may be blindsided one time by this problem, but do what you can to prevent it a second time. Document your work and ideas and, when appropriate, make colleagues aware of your ideas so it's clear what you suggested for a project. 4. You're doing the work of three or four people without any recognition.
Unfortunately, this is not uncommon, as companies have downsized or failed to replace people who leave. If you never earn a raise or any reward for your work, it's likely time to look elsewhere.

5. Colleagues are insubordinate.
If people don't think they need to follow the rules and are generally rebellious and arrogant, flaunting their ability to do whatever they want without worrying about negative ramifications, it's a major problem.

6. False accusations are the norm.
If you're aware that making up stories and accusing other people of things they did not do is the norm in your company, and you begin to feel like you go to work with a bunch of kindergarteners, it's a sign of poor office dynamics.

7. The boss is ineffective or absentee.
"When the cat's away, the mice will play," or so says the nursery rhyme. If your colleagues can't wait for the boss to go on vacation so they can have their way, it's not a good sign.

8. Poor performers never seem to lose their jobs, while strong workers are fired.
When the organization values and rewards people who aren't carrying their weight, but potential leaders quickly lose their jobs, it's possible that those in charge are threatened by competent workers.

9. Everyone operates under different rules.
When the supervisor does not apply rules consistently to everyone in the same role, it can be very challenging for those left with the short end of the stick.

10. There is a lack of formal training plans or programs.
If your onboarding was an introduction to your new boss and a key to your new office, it can be a sign that you're in for a tough road. Lack of organization when you join a company could suggest problems ahead.

11. People are promoted in random, seemingly illogical ways.
If you're always shocked by who got promoted, because the people are generally not well regarded from your perspective, you will probably want to think about moving on.

12. Supervisors don't communicate expectations well.
Communication skills are so important, but many bosses fail to make their needs clear. If your boss couldn't communicate his way out of a shoe box, you can never understand the priorities and you're always being berated for getting things wrong, assume you'll have many difficulties achieving your goals in the organization.

Don't consider these problems expected behavior in the workplace. If you don't see a way to change things at your organization or there is no support for positive shifts in workplace culture, now is a good time to look for a new job.

More from Miriam Salpeter
Signs you're in a dead-end job
Traits of the best employees
How to snap out of your bad mood fast

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Jerry Alvarez

A NCR employee must have written this article, because this is a 100% mirror of what goes on working at NCR National Cash Register.

October 25 2014 at 4:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Pictures have been promised a promotion 7 times and it taken away because they hired someone new .. I am always being accused of mistakes other people make... And I am a target of being told I am stupid and not properly trained,,, basically pushed around and used when needed for their convienence.. I like my job I try to do my very best .. Yes I make mistake and do my best to not make them twice.. What can I do to stop going home crying every night

March 19 2014 at 9:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow I have just gotten out of an environment exactly like this, ticks every box. Can make for a very disruptive life. Sadly at one of the ad agency greats.

February 21 2014 at 5:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rebecca Cortright

Great post Miriam, very informative. I can't imagine myself working in a company having all these 12 toxic qualities. It will be a nightmare if it happens. Thank God I have a good boss and I'm very satisfied with the company that I am currently working on.

Also, if you and other readers of this post have some free time to visit this website that let's you rate your boss and company online. This is a very helpful tool that will let us express how we feel towards our boss and the company that we are working.

December 14 2013 at 10:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just left a federal agency and reported to not one, not two, but THREE supervisors during my time there who created a toxic office environment. For the first and WORST supevisor, numbers 1, 7-12 applied. For the second and last supervisors, all the signs applied. The sad thing about it is that each of these offices had the potential to really make a big difference in the agency and the federal government but the petty office politics got in the way of ever doing anything meaningful. In fact, the last supervisor actually encouraged a click of 40-50 something "mean girls" who took their turns talking about and spreading untruths about a workers' competency to others and were kiss-ups whenever an executive appeared.

September 10 2013 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Most of the above sounded like my old office...I use to work for a major appliance company and that is what went on in the office (s). I put up with that for over 14 yrs. Thank goodness for the grape vine, I found out that two of the bosses that drove me crazy were cought stealing from the co, threw an audit. I use to find mistakes and they were wipped away from me and I never saw them again...guess they were part of the stealing. So I got my satisfaction for how rotten I was treated after 5 yrs of leaving that hell whole of a place.

September 10 2013 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Everyone has gone through this at some point or another. The question is, who has not been through these types of situations at the work place? If you have not then good for you...

September 09 2013 at 8:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

You are here: Jobs > News & Advice > 12 Signs You are Working in a Toxic Office
12 Signs You are Working in a Toxic Office
How dysfunctional is your workplace?

September 09 2013 at 6:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Been there, hated that and left.

September 09 2013 at 3:53 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

When the organization values and rewards people who aren't carrying their weight, but potential leaders quickly lose their jobs, it's possible that those in charge are threatened by competent workers...Ya Think!
Only smart people lose their jobs and those at the top are the worst dummies around. Makes you wonder who was blind-folded when [that] person got promoted...

September 09 2013 at 3:42 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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