You are probably exhausted. You are tired of the constant criticism and sometimes feel like crying when you get home from work. You have a knot in your stomach every time the train approaches the station for work. Are you in a toxic work environment?
Chances are, if you are experiencing any of the situations above, you probably are. In fact, once you start feeling that way, you are most likely already experiencing some of the first signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Learn to recognize the signs of a toxic work environment so that you can plan your exit if you have to.
What are the signs to look for?
- Your boss gives you “busy-work” that does not advance an agenda: One way that bullies exert their influence over their targets is by assigning work of no consequence. For example, I worked with an employee who was being told that since her grammar was not “up to par,” (neither was her boss’ grammar), she needed to prove, every day, how she would improve her grammar, by reading, training, going to classes. The employee’s grammar was just fine, but the boss was trying to put her down and assign her something that would not advance her agenda. The employee was so humiliated by this and other acts that ended up leaving in the end.
- Your boss is overly critical. Does your boss criticize you for small, insignificant things? I worked with an employee whose boss criticized her for wearing a shirt that was “too big” or “too red.” I also worked with someone whose boss criticized her for being “too sweet,” (she worked with families and children). Their bosses sought any excuse to criticize them in order to make them uncomfortable and anxious, not because there was any reason to criticize them at all.
- You constantly feel like you are walking on eggshells. You don’t know what to do as the rules keep changing. You see that certain rules apply to you but they don’t apply to your coworkers. And there are rules that apply sometimes, and other rules that apply at other times. You are surrounded by uncertainty, and even though uncertainty is part of life, it is completely maximized at your workplace in order to increase the anxiety levels.
- Rules don’t apply to everyone the same. Technically, rules should apply to every employee fairly. In toxic work environments, some rules apply to some employees and not others. I worked with an employee who had to submit every decision to her boss, who decided whether she could go ahead and implement her decision, or not. This happened while others in the same position did not have to go through the same procedures.
- You are constantly being accused of “subpar” work. And this will happen even when you are submitting quality work that gets dismissed, and while other people submit questionable work that gets accepted. I once sat at a meeting where a boss questioned every single one of the teams’ accomplishments, making fun of the members of the team, and saying that she did not believe that they could have accomplished the goals. Every single one of the members of that team resigned in protest.
I went through this experience myself. I experienced it firsthand. My boss started bullying me precisely when our project was starting to gain recognition and showed the first few signs of success. It was precisely this success that led to myself and my team to be the targets of a boss that only cared about her own standing in the organization.
If you have identified some of the signs above in your own work situation, you are probably in a toxic workplace. Do you want to know more about my experience and how I was able to get out of it? Do you need help identifying the situation and need help planning the exit? Follow my plan here.
Best of luck!