7 signs you're stuck in a toxic workplace - HR Grapevine

A helpful blog written by Sophie Parrott at HR Grapevine around toxic workplaces and how to manage them and including the 7 signs.

Having a disagreement over the business’s direction and voicing your concerns to a colleague is inevitable at work.

And in many ways, for business decisions to be made effectively, clashing perspectives are important to ensure that the best proposition is reached.

While this may be necessary occasionally, if this kind of behaviour is observed on a regular basis, it may indicate that a toxic workplace is present. And this toxic environment can often be puppeteered by those in more senior positions.

Frances Merrylees, HR Director at ITV previously told HR Grapevine that identifying toxic leaders before they’re hired is often easier said than done.

“Toxic leaders get to a position of leadership because they are good at that and they can deliver but at the cost of others.”

And, with a real ability to manage their persona in front of others, it isn’t always easy to spot toxic perpetrators that could be damaging a working environment. So, HR Grapevine has collated seven of the biggest signs to look out for.

7 Signs Outlined below: 

Colleagues that love to say ‘that’s not my job’

When working towards set business goals, it is crucial that employees work together and help one another. But when a person constantly deflects responsibility to a colleague or another department, it is an indicative sign of a toxic culture.

Saying ‘that’s not my job’ essentially says ‘I only care about myself’. And this attitude can quickly destroy a functional workforce into a flawed set of individuals.


Talking behind a person’s back can really damage a company’s culture. Gossiping about the actions of a colleague, rather than directly voicing the problem with the employee themselves, is a classic case of someone who has nothing better to do with their time.

These types of people can waste time on gossiping rather than on productive conversations that benefit the business. This will also cause colleagues to lose respect for the gossipmonger. So, a gossipy culture is a real indicator of a toxic work environment.

The expectation that you will be unfairly treated

An employee giving up the hope that they will be treated fairly by their superiors or colleagues screams of a toxic workplace. If it gets to the point that the employee is so used to being treated badly and it is actually considered normal, it is a real tell-tale sign.

No-one asks for your input anymore

Employees may be asked to fill out an annual staff satisfaction survey once a year but that is as far as their involvement goes. Perhaps it is a classic case of out-of-sight-out-of-mind; if the problem isn’t flagged to senior leadership teams, then it’s almost as if the problem doesn’t exist.

So, excluding employees from making important decisions, particularly when they are in a position to know the ins and outs of what is going on, is a real deal-breaker when it comes to killing company culture.

You can’t highlight important issues to your boss

If employees feel that they aren’t able to discuss important issues with their manager then there is obviously a problem. Additionally, if the employee can pre-empt that their boss will kick up a stink when they challenge being rostered on for another weekend shift, then toxic leadership is present from above the employee’s head.

The boss may even respond with ‘that’s your problem’ and try to put the onus on the employee. So, watch out for leadership styles of this sort.

Being told to ‘consider yourself lucky’ because you have got a job

Yes, an employee may have a job, but it is no good if they are miserable and experiencing burnout on the back of it. This major red flag is deemed a scare tactic to threaten employees into doing something that they may not want to do.

The business may thrive on narcissistic and controlling leadership styles, but this causes nothing but damage for the firm’s employees. So, if you’re being threatened with the ‘consider yourself lucky’ line, it might be a good idea to get out while you can.

Bad attitude

Walking around the office where everyone is glum 24/7 is indicative of a hostile work environment. No one ever smiles, no one offers to do the tea and coffee rounds, and no one ever expresses enjoying their job. Also, high employee turnover rates are an obvious sign that people are desperate to flee a toxic office culture.

Have we missed any of the key signs of a toxic workplace? Let us know in the comments…

7 signs you're stuck in a toxic workplace - HR Grapevine