How Dysfunctional Is Your Office? 8 Signs of a Toxic Workplace

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How can you identify if you’re trapped in a hostile workplace? Here are seven telling signs you may be working in a toxic office environment.

For many people, work can be like a second home. You spend the majority of your waking hours dedicated to your work. Your co-workers and team may likely be the people you interact with most in your life, after family or a spouse.

Yet it’s impossible to be effective and feel fulfilled in a toxic workplace environment. Even if you work from home, a negative work environment can transcend physical walls. The intangible qualities that make work a healthy or unhealthy place can impact everything from your personal life and health to your self-esteem.

The increased stress of working in a dysfunctional office can lead directly to job burnout, particularly for Sensitive Strivers

In my book TRUST YOURSELF: Stop Overthinking and Channel Your Emotions for Success at Work, I explain that Sensitive Strivers are high-achievers who are also highly sensitive. This refers to about one in five professionals who is driven and ambitious, but also think and feel everything more deeply.

Why Toxic Workplaces Affect Sensitive Strivers More

Because Sensitive Strivers have a more calibrated nervous system, they tend to be more affected by their environment – for better or worse.

  • Your deeper sensory perception means you can sense – and more bothered – when things are “off”
  • You feel things intensely and can be easily hurt by criticism or harsh behavior from toxic people
  • You put a lot of pressure on yourself to perform and assume a sense of responsibility to make sure everyone around you likes you and is happy
  • You’re attuned to everything happening (including people’s reactions), which can lead to constant vigilance that is emotionally draining
  • You may have been told you’re “too sensitive” or take things “too personally” so now you’re afraid to speak up and assert yourself
  • You become overworked and overstressed, which further burdens you’re already overloaded nervous system

8 Signs of a Toxic Workplace

How can you identify if you’re trapped in a hostile workplace? Here are eight telling signs you may be working in a toxic office environment.


If you’ve ever heard this statement from your boss, it’s a major red flag. This scare tactic is a means of threatening you into staying in a marginalized position and is symptomatic of an organization that thrives on bullying behavior and control.


Do you feel like you’re left out of the loop regarding important information? A pervasive lack of communication characterizes most toxic workplaces. You may get little to no feedback about your performance, and when you do, it’s negative and harsh — not the constructive type.

You may be doing the work of two, three, or four people, yet it’s not unusual for your boss or colleagues to take credit for your accomplishments.


If you walk into work and everyone around you is miserable a la “Office Space,” then you may be trapped in a hostile environment. In this type of office, there is no enthusiasm; no one coming in with smiles on their faces and no one ever says “I love working here.” A high turnover rate among employees is a good sign that people are fleeing very quickly, most likely because of their unhappiness and poor morale at the office.


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