Working in a toxic environment can be overwhelming and make you resent your work. Toxic working environments affect employees’ mental health and self-confidence at work, an impact that can influence how easily unethical practices can take place. From unhealthy work hours, taking away breaks from employees, and making the working environment too toxic for individuals to perform well, an employer’s toxic behavior could also be a sign of something much more concerning: breaches in the law.
1. Bad Communication
A healthy working environment is one where employees can communicate openly and share their concerns without worry. In a toxic workplace, on the other hand, they might be dealing with a lack of clarity around their tasks, may be told something different from various higher-ups, might deal with a lot of passive-aggression, and may also be bombarded with messages in their off-hours.
2. Bad Leadership
Bad leadership is another sign of a toxic workplace. Regardless of whether employees are being micromanaged or are dealing with abusive language and/or behaviors from other team members, such practices can put a damper on the organization’s productivity. Are their ideas being questioned and ridiculed? Are they belittled by those in the higher echelons? Whether the boss is a micromanager, lacks empathy, or is plain disrespectful, it’s not appropriate at the workplace.
3. Unethical Practices
Perhaps the employer is using unethical environmental practices, supports the use of false product claims, sneaks in unfavorable hidden terms in user agreements, or mismanages accounts intentionally. These practices are unethical and can be illegal in many cases. For an employee, it may be an uncomfortable situation to be in. The good news is that there are Federal whistleblower protection laws that ensure an employee can’t be punished for reporting code violations and illegal activities to the authorities.
4. Rapid Employee Turnover
A tell-tale sign of a toxic workplace is rapid employee turnover. This tells you many things, but one in particular: employees cannot wait to leave their workplace. Similarly, if employees are regularly laid off or let go for less-than-convincing reasons, there should be a question mark in your head regarding the reason behind this – and whether this is a legal practice.
5. Lacking Work-Life Balance
A toxic working environment is likely to be exhausting and overwhelming because it is all-encompassing. This kind of environment makes you feel guilty for not responding to notifications at 11 PM on a Wednesday, and it makes you wonder whether you need those paid vacation days – newsflash, you do! If you notice employees avoiding taking time off when they are very ill or being worried about bringing up time off, ask yourself whether the work-life balance is lacking within the organization.
6. Overtime Issues
Under Federal Law your employer is allowed to require that you work overtime as long as you are properly compensated for it. But many toxic workplaces do their best to avoid the second part, finding excuses and tricks to try to get you to work longer without the additional pay involved and finding ways to get you to do free work for them. They may even try to spin this into a positive light, saying that since the company is a “family” everyone should help, which is something to be wary of. Working overtime can either be paid and mandatory or unpaid and optional, but your employer can’t both ask you to work for free and threaten to fire you if you don’t.
The line between a toxic working environment and one where illegal practices are taking place can be fine. If something feels off or if your gut is telling you that something isn’t right, don’t wait. You can hire a whistleblower attorney to take action now and get rid of toxicity-enhancing illegal practices in your organization.
Tis the season for optional overtime. Even optional overtime needs to be paid. Some employers attempt to guilt and/or entice hourly employees into volunteering at company sponsored events. If an employee is engaged in a work-related at a company event, they should be compensated. This doesn’t necessarily mean that an employee should be paid for attending a holiday celebration. But if that employee is serving food, or running the event, it should be compensated. Make sure to have discussions with your HR team about what should be compensated during all work-related events.