Some work environments are healthy and result in an open sharing of ideas and techniques. Unfortunately, others can be decidedly more toxic, but it’s not always easy to notice when it’s your everyday reality. Because a daily work environment can be fluid and dynamic, it’s sometimes hard to spot the red flags that denote a toxic environment. Most entrepreneurs may not even realize one is forming around them.
Here, eight leaders from Young Entrepreneur Council share some lesser-known red flags you should be looking for if you believe you’re working in a toxic environment and suggest what you might do if you spot any of these signs.
1. A Lack Of Transparency
A major red flag for a toxic work environment is a lack of transparency. Employees need to know how a company they work for is doing and how what they’re working on is contributing to the larger picture. A lack of transparency creates distrust and can make team members feel as if they don’t matter. If you’re working in a company where there is a lack of transparency, bring up that you’d love to see how the work that you’re doing is moving the needle. If the company refuses, it’s best to start looking elsewhere because it’s unlikely that the situation will improve. – Brian David Crane, Caller Smart Inc.
2. Unmotivated Co-Workers
We all know the big red flags of a toxic working environment: bad or ineffective communication, low trust and respect for one another, stifled growth, cliques and biased treatment from co-workers and management alike. There’s nothing new to see here, but sometimes these factors can be under the surface. But if you don’t have a keen eye to observe the second-order effects of those red flags, then you’ll naively walk into a career trap. A big second-order effect of a toxic work environment is an unmotivated workforce. Wherever you work, your co-workers should inspire you to do good work. If they instead demotivate you through direct or indirect means, then you’re probably working in a toxic environment. If you have this problem, you should leave. Happy workers want others to succeed. – Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS
3. No Recognition For Your Work
A more subtle sign of a toxic working environment is when employees aren’t given recognition for their work, which obviously diminishes motivation and morale over time. Good managers and employers should always take the time to review their team members’ hard work and recognize and reward what they’ve done for the business. Reviews are also a good opportunity to talk about if the employee is having any difficulties with their work and how they’d like to progress with their projects. Not checking in with these things is also a red flag and can lead to employees feeling untethered from their workplace and like they’re not achieving their potential. If employees feel this way, they should ask for a meeting to talk about concerns, but if they’re not feeling valued, they should look elsewhere. – Mark Stallings, Casely, Inc
4. The Manager Has A Poor Attitude
The attitude of the boss or manager is one of the main reasons why people quit and go elsewhere. Having a negative boss can make even the most enjoyable job miserable. So it’s important to scope out the people you work with before accepting a job opportunity. The sooner you notice these patterns, the sooner you can back out of them and move on to a better opportunity. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
5. No Clear Direction On Projects
If you start to notice that your managers aren’t giving you a clear sense of direction for your project, this could be a red flag. Keep in mind that there’s a difference between micromanaging and clearly stating what needs to happen next in a project. Sometimes, simply asking for clarification can resolve this problem. However, if you consistently find yourself unsure of your next task and get vague responses from your managers, you may want to consider looking for a new job. – John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC
6. An Unstable Work-Life Balance
One lesser-known, but extremely important red flag is an unstable work-life balance. This could be recognized simply by noticing that no one wants to get up and leave at the end of the day. If you are in a job where you are required to be constantly “on the clock” whether you are vacationing, taking a sick day or it’s just after hours, you may want to double-check how much time you’re putting in. You are an employee, but this doesn’t mean you’re chained to the desk or at their beck and call. This red flag can lead to constant burnout, which is not only worse for business, but also for employee retention. While you might have to put in a few extra hours during special projects or push-times, it shouldn’t be the norm. Time off is only time off if you aren’t working. – Matt Bertram, EWR Digital
7. Scope Creep
One of the lesser-known red flags of a toxic work environment is called scope creep. Essentially, this is a slow process where the management team, supervisor or freelance client gives an employee more required work or has unnecessary requests outside of their contract’s bounds. For example, let’s say you were hired as an editor. One week, your boss asks you to write one blog post and do your usual editing work because someone is out sick. Before long, they ask you to write four posts every week and edit for the other writers. What we just described is scope creep. When you feel like the requests are getting out of hand, ask your boss or client to meet with you to discuss the issue. In many cases, you can resolve this issue if it’s addressed before it escalates. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights
8. Multitasking During Meetings
Leaders or managers who multitask during meetings or one-on-one conversations create toxicity. Sadly, this is so obvious to notice but is a lesser-known red flag within the work environment. The reason? Most leaders don’t understand that multitasking kills productivity, and most employees just think that’s the way leaders work. When employees encounter such acts, they should ask for the leader’s undivided attention. This should show employers that the employees seek clarity, something that can benefit a company’s bottom line like no other. If the leader continues to multitask and half-listen, find another business to work for. The environment is toxic, and that business won’t last long and/or you’ll be miserable due to overloads of stress. – Ron Lieback, ContentMender