Signs Of A Toxic Workplace And How To Prevent/Combat A Toxic Workplace

It’s important both as an employer and an employee to be aware that toxic environments do exist without the oversight to prevent them. Make sure you know your rights and you take into account the culture you are cultivating in your office. Let’s take a look at some thoughts from some top business leaders on preventing and combating toxic workplace behaviors.

High Turnover

Common signs of a toxic work environment is lack of leadership and high turnover. Without good leadership a company is destined to create a toxic workplace. It starts with the top down, if things are not fixed at the ownership or CEO level, lower level management will never change. This can be avoided by putting the right people incharge and promoting within.

Aidan Cole, Co-Founder Hide

Your Demeanor Matters

Your demeanor as a boss has a huge overall effect on the workplace. Make sure you are conscious of how you address your employees, how you assign tasks, and how you handle it when something goes wrong or isn’t done correctly.

Olivia Young, Head of Product Design Conscious Items

Mutual Respect

A toxic workplace can stem from a lack of mutual respect between employer and employee. Make sure you cultivate this by communicating expectations clearly, and being patient with the results. A company has a responsibility to ensure employees feel they know what their job expectations are.

Ian Hogarth, CEO Songkick

Look for Signs of Overworking

While employees can get stressed from time to time when big projects come up, it’s not healthy when they feel like they’ve never had any free time outside of work since they were hired for a position. When you hear from someone that they’re constantly having to work overtime and that a manager or co-worker is constantly criticizing them for not doing enough, this can be a clear sign that they are working in a toxic environment.

Chris Caouette, Co-Founder Gorilla Bow

Assess Team Culture

When an employee you hired for their exceptional communication and people skills appears suddenly withdrawn and no longer fitting in, this may be a sign of issues in the workplace. And if that same employee starts calling out sick regularly, this could be a symptom of a toxic work environment.

Assessing the team culture and seeing what behaviors are present, what cliques there are, or unreasonable competitiveness is essential in healing toxic workplace issues. Then actively communicating your business’s goals and letting every employee know how they contribute to those goals reminds them that they’re part of the team and part of the process. Next, strengthen that sense of team through fun team-building activities and events. Finally, a little social interaction outside of work may help everyone relax and get to know each other better, and begin to communicate more openly and with empathy. Communication truly is the foundation of any team, so keep it strong with frequent and ongoing discussions.

Zach Okhah, M.D., Founder and Chief Surgeon PH-1 Miami

Stick to Your Scheduled Hours

If you feel like you are being asked to work beyond your agreed upon schedule, that is definitely a sign of a toxic work environment. Supportive work environments take schedules and time seriously, and will have trust in you to get the job done during those hours. When an employee starts taking advantage of your time outside of work, that’s a sign that necessary boundaries around your time are not being respected or set.

Derin Oyekan Co-Founder Reel Paper

Micromanaging Cultivates Toxicity

When bosses micromanage and overwork their employees, that toxicity destroys the culture of the company and debilitates the dynamic of the team. Employees need room and resources to grow. Another telltale is passive aggressiveness. Sarcasm, silent treatment, and sly remarks can all be indicators that you are working under toxic management. Employers need to understand that by becoming more of a servant leader than a stringent facilitator, they can foster an environment that leads to more success, higher output, and greater creativity rather than stifling their employee’s abilities with condescension and an overbearing approach.

Yuvi Alpert, Founder/CEO Noémie

Host Meetings to Cultivate Positivity

One way to prevent a toxic workplace is to make sure that every employee has time to get to know one another. Hosting weekly coffee/update meetings is a great way to do this. This gives employees an opportunity to see all of their team members in addition to getting necessary updates for the week.

Guy Bar , Founder hygear

Hire a Solid HR Team

Offer employees the opportunity to communicate with their Human Resources department. Transparency with HR is essential so that if an issue does arise, you have a responsible team that you can trust to help you resolve issues. Without a reliable HR team, you can easily cultivate a toxic situation for your employees.

David Girourad, CEO Upstart

Aggressive Communication is a Red Flag

Toxic workplaces don’t just have bad communication, but sometimes even aggressive communication. When people are aggressive in the workplace all the time, it can lead to emotions getting in the way of solving problems unnecessarily, and a sharp decline in employee morale. If you notice your coworkers are having this problem, find the root of the aggression. Are they constantly competing with each other? Are there problems outside of the office that need to be addressed? Or is it a problem within management and the company culture? Finding the problem is the first step to addressing it.

Eric Wu, Co-founder, COO Gainful

Know Your Rights

Make sure you know your rights as an employee. You need to educate and empower yourself to know what is ok for an employer to ask, and what is not. Always report inappropriate behavior as soon as you experience it, this will create a precedent among your workplace if management is not setting it themselves.

Jason Wong, Founder DoeLashes

Watch Production Levels

Identifying a toxic workplace is usually fairly easy: production levels are generally low. To prevent a toxic workplace, be sure to have strict policies in place to deal with any type of inappropriate or unproductive behavior. And, be sure that there is an open door for anyone who needs to discuss any troubling situations. Regular anonymous surveys are also a great idea, too.

Travis Killian, Owner and CEO Everlasting Comfort

Work Life Balance

When you have no work life balance and your job seems to consume your entire life, this is a toxic work environment. The best way to combat this is to speak with a manager about how you are feeling, or to replan how you organize your day. A good example is how and when you respond to emails. For example, try checking your emails in the morning and then only one more time at 5PM before you call the day quits. This will keep you more focused so you don’t get distracted.

Michael Hennessy, CEO Diathrive

Create Equal Opportunities

Make sure that when you are moving people up in your company that you are giving an equal opportunity to everyone you are considering. It definitely doesn’t look good to move up someone that you just like versus someone who has shown they are both ready and want the position.

Eric Gist, CEO Awesome OS

Disorganized Structure

No one wants to work in a toxic environment. Toxic environments have leadership that is disorganized which can create structural problems in the company that trickle down to other members of the organization. This can be combated by reevaluating the role of leadership and removing members of the team who contribute to the toxicity.

Vincent Bradley, CEO Proper Wild


If everyone seems burnt out all the time, this is a sign of a toxic workplace. In a positive work environment, most employees will have enough energy to complete their tasks for the day without too much trouble. If it seems that employees no longer care about their work, try assigning them different tasks than what they’d normally do. It could be possible that they just need a change of pace.

Jenn O’hara, CEO Soba Recovery

It Starts With Management

A toxic workplace almost always starts on the management level – either with the management team themselves, or their inability to control incidents that occur as a result of a disgruntled team member’s behavior. A sign of such a workplace is almost always low employee retention rates AND low productivity. After all, it’s difficult to work efficiently when you’re not engaged.

Jared Zabaldo, Founder USAMM

Drama is a Bad Sign

An obvious sign of a toxic work environment is drama. In these situations no topic or person is off limits. Managers will talk badly about ownership, employees will talk badly about management and ownership, turnover will be high and the overall culture is negative. In a situation like this, you can either participate in the drama, or you can ignore it and do the best job possible. I firmly believe that every experience, negative or positive will add to your knowledge portfolio!

Sean O’Brien, CMO Modloft

Invest in Training

As many people continue to adjust to reentering the workplace and interacting with people outside their homes, it’s natural that there may be some friction going on in the office. Invest in some team training for your staff with activities that focus on social skills like communication, cooperation, and team problem-solving. Break down the team into small groups and mix and match team player styles. Mixing it up not only gives you insight into who works well together and how, but it also promotes diversity and inclusion.

Shahzil Amin, Managing Partner at Karlani Capital & Founder of Emagineer Well Before

Trickle Down From Leadership

An obvious sign of a toxic work environment is when everyone at a company is scared of the owner. What this does is poison the leadership and it becomes a trickle down effect for the rest of the employees. Unfortunately, when it involves the owner of the company it can feel overwhelming to try and combat, who do you turn to? If there’s an anonymous way to submit how you feel I would do that, but besides that it may be wise to look for another job.

Dylan Arthur Garber Co-Founder Audien Hearing

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