7 Ways You’re Actively Contributing to a Toxic Working Environment

Frustrated employee


Taylor Tobin
Taylor Tobin1.84k

If you work in an office environment that you’d describe as “toxic”, it’s easy to assume that your workplace’s negative vibes are a result of forces beyond your control as an employee. However, in many circumstances, our actions- even those we take inadvertently- can contribute to a less-than-pleasant atmosphere and can perpetuate behavior patterns that impede progress and amiable relationships between colleagues. But how can you tell whether you’re contributing to a toxic work environment? If these 7 actions seem familiar to you, that may give you an answer.

1. You participate in cliquey dynamics and rumor-mongering.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with befriending a small group of coworkers and choosing to spend lunch and coffee breaks chatting with your pals. However, when the dynamics become outright exclusionary and your “clique” engages in regular bouts of rumor-starting and spreading about other colleagues, that’s a surefire recipe for a toxic work environment. We’re not in high school anymore, so leave the “mean-girling” out of the office. 

2. All of your work-related conversations are dominated by negativity.

Everyone needs to vent about work frustrations from time to time; even the genuinely career-satisfied among us will occasionally vocalize complaints. But if you find yourself unable to talk about work without immediately and consistently plunging into negative commentary, it’s likely that you’re carrying some of that discontentment into the office with you.

3. You choose not to express your work-related questions and concerns to management.

In a paradoxical turn of events, employees who spend a significant amount of their off-the-clock time complaining about work often hesitate to bring their concerns to the people who can actually affect change: their managers. Some managers certainly do their part to discourage open discourse with their team members (usually to the company’s detriment), but if your manager is typically reasonable and open to suggestions, take the initiative to share your feedback.

4. You go to extraordinary lengths to avoid face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) contact with coworkers.

Certain company cultures fully embrace the concept of replacing face-to-face conversations with online messaging- and don’t get us wrong, we’re big fans of using GChat and Slack for work discussions. But if your office climate necessitates in-person talks with coworkers on a regular basis, you’ll be significantly disrupting the workplace rhythm if you insist on corresponding solely through chat messages, emails, and texts. 

5. You’re missing deadlines and allowing necessary tasks to fall by the wayside.

A positive work environment depends heavily on trust between colleagues. Therefore, missing multiple deadlines and frequently dropping the ball on assignments that must be completed both establishes you as an unreliable team member and feeds into a general atmosphere of uncertainty and dissatisfaction, which can in turn devolve into toxic energy. 

6. You’re primarily fueled by a competitive drive at the expense of collaboration.

A competitive drive can be a healthy and vibrant way to keep yourself motivated and engaged at work. But if your desire to surpass your coworkers makes you difficult to work with, that can wreak havoc on collaborative projects and prove demoralizing to your entire team. 

7. You arrive at work without taking proper self-care steps. 

While self-care should be an individualized process unique to everyone, implementing the steps required to make you feel rested, energized, and ready for the workday will positively affect both yourself and your coworkers. If you show up at the office hungry and exhausted, your productivity will inevitably suffer.

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