8 Signs That You’re In A Toxic Work/Study Environment

Having a toxic workplace or study environment is more than just disliking Mondays or hating your job. The definition of a toxic work environment is “the setting where the atmosphere negatively impacts employees and causes disruption to their career growth.” So you’re not just suffering from a difficult work week with lots of deadlines, confusion and frustration. It’s like being in that work week every single day, with no breaks. 

Besides the toll that being in a toxic work and study environment takes on your body, it takes over your life. It follows you home and causes stress and anxiety when you would be better off relaxing at home and letting the events of the day go. 

While this article focuses primarily on a toxic work environment, some of these signs can be applicable to study environments as well, so take what resonates with you. With that being said, here are 8 signs that you’re in a toxic work or study environment. 

  1. Little or No Enthusiasm

Low morale after a stressful week studying or working might be normal for some people with all the energy that they used. However, long-term low morale is not the same thing. Do you notice a lack of positive conversations and employees socializing? Do people around you seem happy to be there or do they look miserable?

Having little or no enthusiasm can occur when employees don’t feel valued professionally or financially, they work under poor leadership, they feel disconnected from the team or they suffer from abuse or harassment at work. These factors can really take excitement away from the employees. 

  1. Fatigue and Illness

If you notice that you’re constantly tired, burned out or ill because of the high stress levels you have, you might be in a toxic work or study environment. When you call in sick or you’re too drained to go to work, that’s because your environment is affecting your health. High levels of stress can and do wreak havoc on our bodies and cause physical  disruptions in our lives, says  coach and human-behavior professor Melody Wilding. These include β€œsleepless nights, feeling constantly vigilant, sweaty palms, and a racing heartbeat.”

This fatigue and illness is caused by a lack of a work life balance. The company might refuse to hire new people or pay the people proper salaries or wages after maybe laying people off and forcing existing employees to continue doing work and maintaining the same level of productivity. This results in many hours at work with no time to recoup at home,leading to fatigue and illness. 

  1. Gossip, Cliques and Exclusion

Certain high school behaviours stayed with people. Like creating tight groups and alienating others and even gossiping about them. While it’s normal to have acquaintances and work “friends”and sometimes complain about workload, spreading gossip and constant negativity is a sign of a toxic work and study environment. 

When there’s this type of behavior at work, it shows that everyone is out for themselves. There is no group cohesion. This can create paranoia, infighting and even sabotage of other’s careers and progress. It’s harmful, immature and wildly unacceptable. 

  1. Narcissistic and Terrible Leadership

There’s a saying that says “a fish rots from the head.” So if you’re in an unhealthy environment, there’s a good chance that could be that you have a rotten chain of command. Your higher ups might be the type to expect others to always agree with them, lack empathy and self-awareness and only to have their own self interests at heart. They might be a certain type of horrible boss. 

Your bosses might expect everyone else to be perfect while they can meet low standards because they believe that they are above the rules. They can force you to choose between your job and your health by emphasizing putting your deadlines above your well-being. It’s difficult and nearly impossible to reason with a narcissist or to co-exist with so that might result in people quitting their jobs. 

  1. Poor Communication

A general lack of communication throughout the work or study environment can be toxic because no one is getting clarity on their roles, work or study expectations or any projects. You don’t have the necessary information to do your job. There’s no connection or order within the team so everyone is disjointed instead of a working unit. 

Poor communication can be weak listening skills, vague instructions and communication, receiving no recognition or positive feedback and having no transparency. Being honest and open is a necessity in a healthy environment. 

  1. Stifled Growth

Another sign that you’re in a toxic work and study environment is that there’s no forward movement. There’s little to no learning opportunities or mentorship in your workplace or school, even if someone is your designated “mentor”. 

While it’s not your dean’s or your employer’s responsibility to motivate you to learn, your place of work or study might not be supportive of your desire to learn or might put a bigger focus on your job over everything. 

  1. High Turnover

Leaving a job is not an easy decision to make. You might be the sole breadwinner or you don’t want to go through the job hunt process again so quitting is something you might not do. However, if you notice that a lot of people are leaving your current place of employment , something might be wrong with it. 

If your company’s environment is disorganized, lacks direction, has bad leadership and little opportunity for future growth, these factors can spur others to look for employment elsewhere because they have picked up on the workplace toxicity. An environment that breeds dysfunction, poor morale and sickness would make a lot of people run. 

  1. Lack of a Work-Life Balance

You deserve to have a fulfilling life outside of work. You should be able to turn off your work notifications and leave emails unread while you’re having dinner. Enjoying your public holidays without having to do any work is essential. Taking your paid time off is not a sin, it’s your right. And you should enjoy it without guilt. 

We have slowly, as a society, started to see the importance of a work-life balance. It’s intolerable to work for a company that requires employees to sacrifice their well-being for the sake of their job. Work-life balance is crucial to human survival. We’re not machines meant to work without breaks. Companies that don’t allow a work-life balance are at fault for enforcing a toxic work environment. While unexpected things show up work-wise, if you’re expected to work on Sundays and it’s not part of your contract, you might be in a toxic work environment. 


Do you resonate with any of these signs? Do you notice these patterns and behaviours at work or at school? Have you found any ways to deal with toxic work or study environments? Please share any tips that you think are helpful and have helped you. Developing strategies for maintaining your daily sanity in a place like this is vital. While some of these signs are not the entire list of toxic workplace and study environments, it’s important to trust your gut if it’s telling you that something’s wrong because your well-being matters. 

Thanks for reading! See you soon. 


*Blog, T. B. (2022, February 4). 10 signs of a toxic work environment and how to handle it. TeamBonding. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.teambonding.com/10-signs-that-youre-in-a-toxic-work-environment/  

*Contessa, C. (2022). 10 signs you’re in a toxic work environment-and how to escape. Career Contessa. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.careercontessa.com/advice/toxic-work-environment/  

*Tanyan, L. (2022). 5 signs you’re in a toxic work environment and how to handle it. Indeed Career Guide. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-deal-with-a-toxic-work-environment  

*Team, I. E. (2021, December 29). 5 signs you’re in a toxic work environment and how to handle it. Indeed Career Guide. Retrieved February 22, 2022, from https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/how-to-deal-with-a-toxic-work-environment  

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