Employees reveal which workplace behaviors are signs of a toxic environment

Employees reveal which workplace behaviors are signs of a toxic environment

Many workers on Reddit are revealing which characteristics of an office are actually signs of a toxic workplace environment.

A toxic work environment is one where employees find it difficult to do their job due to a negative atmosphere that has become intrinsic to the workplace culture. These behaviours or characteristics – which can include poor pay, manipulation tactics, or even bullying – can cause serious stress on an employee and sometimes lead to burnout, and many other disruptions to one’s daily life.

According to a recent study from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, a toxic workplace culture was the number one reason why people left their jobs in 2021. Researchers found that the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures included a failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior.

Now, people on Reddit are sharing their own experiences with toxic work environments as a warning for fellow workers to look out for certain “red flags” in their jobs.

Earlier this week, Reddit user u/legalboobs96 asked in the popular forum r/AskWomen, “Which workplace behavior is actually toxic and needs to stop?”

The post received more than 1,000 comments, as many users listed mandatory events, in-office drama, and requirements for paid time off as examples of unhealthy working environments.

“Forced team bonding events,” wrote u/myciccio.

“Yes!” agreed u/m0rbidowl. “Related to this, another one is expecting every employee to be ‘outgoing and a team player’. Some people just want to do their work and go home and there is NOTHING wrong with that.”

Another user wrote: “If you want to boost morale, forcing people to attend an event that they otherwise would have chosen not to attend is going to have the opposite effect.”

In addition to forced company events, one major red flag of a toxic workplace is when female employees are expected to organise bonding activities.

“Expecting women to organise and run the mandatory fun/team bonding events,” wrote u/myalias1919. “Does not matter if men at the same level or job would never be expected to ‘waste’ their time putting together these events, women are expected to do it, often on their own time, and we are supposed to like it too.”

Some people revealed how their co-workers who have children are given priority over child-free employees when it comes to requesting time off.

“Only being able to take time off or adjust shifts if you have children,” said u/emmanonomous. They explained how they were suffering from “very severe insomnia” and “begged” their employer of 10 years for reduced hours or daytime shifts.

“Every single request was rejected, but anyone who had a child was instantly accommodated,” they said.

Another Redditor agreed, writing, “The mentality that people who choose to have children are more entitled to taking time off on holidays or in the summer.”

“I don’t have a child, but I am someone’s child,” added u/OopsWhoopsieDaisy. “I don’t have to have children of my own for holidays to be important to me.”

While mental health awareness has become increasingly important in many workplaces, some employees felt that allowing people to take mental health days off is better than simply hosting self-care seminars.

“Yes, self-care is important. But we need to be able to put that into practice!” said u/coffeeblossom. “We need to be able to take uninterrupted breaks. We need to be able to not answer work-related calls/texts/emails/etc off the clock without being penalized for it. We need to be able to take PTO without unnecessary hassle. We need to be able to set boundaries, instead of being held to ‘quality’ metrics that inhibit them.”

“And we need to recognise that self-care isn’t the solution to every problem. We need to be paid what we’re worth. We need shorter workdays. We need a just workplace.”

One user explained how they were forced to learn their new job without any training from their colleague, but was criticised by that same colleague when they made a mistake. “They overwhelm you with information, make you feel like a total idiot because you don’t know this stuff, and the colleague expects you to know all their 25 plus years of knowledge in a week!” said u/Deshang222.

Other examples of upsetting workplace behaviours included commenting on co-workers’ food choices, engaging in gossip and drama, not letting employees sit down while working, or encouraging “work wives” and “work husbands” in an office environment.

Unsurprisingly, the number one red flag people pointed out as a sign of a toxic workplace environment is when supervisors describe their company as a family.

“‘This is a family’. No it’s not…it’s a business,” one person said.

“Massive red flag,” another user agreed. “Run a mile if I hear this at an interview.”