Toxic Work Environment: How to Know When It's Time to Leave Your Job

CC BY 2.0 / / Stressed at work
Stressed at work - Sputnik International, 1920, 29.01.2022
"Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life", reads a famous viral quote one might come across when looking for motivation. Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to relate to these words.
The pandemic times are tough enough as it is, and to deal with a job that dries you out on top of that – be it due to poor leadership, toxic work environment or lack of work-life balance – can be overwhelming. However, sometimes a line between "toxic" and just "stressful" may be thin, and one should carefully consider all options before quitting.
So what is a toxic job and what are the red flags that may indicate that it is time to leave?

How to Distinguish

Not all jobs are sunshine and rainbows, as we all have to deal with deadlines, irritating clients and colleagues, and the fact that someone might never learn how to heat up their fish without turning the office into a hell for everyone with a sense of smell.
However, there are certain things that may indicate you might want to reconsider your career choices. One of the most important things, according to Lowri Dowthwaite, a lecturer in psychological interventions at the University of Central Lancashire, is work-life balance.

"You should still be able to enjoy your life, switch off from work when you are at home or on holiday and you should still enjoy going to work most of the time," she says, noting that a toxic work environment would "affect your mental health and wellbeing on a daily basis".

Among other things to be on the lookout for, Dowthwaite outlines bullying and harassment, an unmanageable workload, lack of support, and poor leadership. If you experience one or more of those things on a daily basis, then you have totally found yourself in a toxic environment.

"If this is the case you need to find a way to either change the environment or remove yourself from it", Dowthwaite advises.

Stress, sleep deprivation, and constant pressure do no good for your body, not only mentally, but physically also. A 2016 study by Stanford University found that poor management and toxic work environments in US companies accounted for up to eight percent of annual health costs. Per the study, some 120,000 excess deaths every year are associated with these issues.
Additionally, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 40 percent of American workers said their job is very or extremely stressful, with 25 percent pointing at work as their number one stressor in life. 75 percent of employees asserted that the problem of workplace stress is much more serious than it was for the previous generation.

How to Decide

Life is rarely about choosing between black and white, and there a lot of things to consider before you decide to quit your job.
In order for your choice to be reasonable and eventually good for you, you have to ask yourself whether you enjoy your role and how much satisfaction, appreciation, and support you feel. When it comes to relationships with the people you work with, try to assess their quality.
Additionally, one important factor is whether you have ambitions in the chosen field: do you want to advance in this career, or would you easily give up your job in order to find something new?
Remember that quitting is your personal choice, but it is always good to consider all your options and maybe ask a mentor or a trusted colleague for advice. Before making up your mind, you should reflect on the possible reasons behind your discomfort.
And if you do decide that it is time to change your job...

"Do your research, find out as much as you can about your options", Dowthwaite recommends. "Reflect on what is important to you, what goals you have for your future and what may be the potential loss and gains of changing jobs".

For the last part, she adds, it may also be helpful to come up with a list of pros and cons.

How to Try to Resolve the Issue

You may acknowledge that you feel uncomfortable at your workplace but still not be ready to toss away your job. Sometimes it can be useful to actually try to find a solution to whatever issues you have instead of quitting.
First of all, once again - determine the reasons behind you discomfort and try to assess how long this has been going on for.

"We all have to tolerate some level of discomfort at times but this should not be longstanding and you should certainly not feel distressed at work", says Dowthwaite. "If this is the case you should seek advice from your manager or HR department and consider what options you have to resolve the issue".

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