Is Your Work Environment Toxic?

To a great extent, many of us are simply putting up with stuff at work. I talk partly from personal experience, but also from listening to many of those I come into contact with. So, is your work environment toxic?

Various sources point to approximately half of employees in the UK being unhappy in the workplace. Surely, this isn’t desirable or even acceptable!

Why are you putting up with toxic work environment?

I think this often happens quite innocently, before it builds unconsciously over time. Initially we accept something that conflicts with us temporarily, as a kind of compromise. These things can often be something quite small or seemingly insignificant.

But our initial easiness can transform into a greater tolerance, and ultimately transform into acceptance that that’s just the way things are, and we need to just ‘get on with it’.  This can be much harder to shift as many of us then feel stuck with that situation.

Going on like this could be because we don’t want to:

  • cause a fuss
  • be seen as difficult
  • rock the boat
  • disturb the status quo
  • upset other people
  • appear selfish

It could also be because we lack the confidence or skills to be able to deal with it.

All these reasons are understandable in isolation, but many of them can point to low personal self-worth. Just putting up with things can bring disengagement and breed resentment. If left unchecked this could ultimately develop into other issues including poor physical and mental health.

work environment toxic

What is toxic work environment?

Many people don’t even realize what they are putting up with at work. What’s more, it can also manifest across a variety of life elements, too.

Here are some examples to help draw your attention to what you may be making your work environment toxic.

1. Your boss

There are some great people managers around, but sadly, there are also many poor ones.

Definitions of what constitutes a poor manger may differ but could include:

– not setting clear objectives and expectations

– having unreasonable or unrealistic expectations proving inadequate support

– micro-managing

– lack of recognition (even taking the credit)

– poor at giving feedback

– displaying inappropriate behaviors


2. Colleagues

In addition to managers, we also often have colleagues to contend with. You may be part of the best team around. Alternatively, you may be subject to:

  • unacceptable behavior – general poor working behaviors but also tardiness, poor meeting etiquette etc.
  • not pulling their weight
  • allowing others to accept responsibility
  • picking and choosing what work they’ll do
  • their whims and moods

3. Pay

Most people would like to be paid more, it’s a reflection of the value they deliver, after all.

However, there are certain financial things that people often put up with, including not getting the going rate for their efforts, time and services.

This could be because they’ve been internally promoted, taking on additional responsibilities without the pay. In addition, they could well be paid less than their peers or those in comparable roles, for a variety of reasons.


4. Working conditions

It’s difficult to please everyone all of the time, but working conditions aren’t always conducive to productive work.

What are you putting up with? Is your working environment too hot, too cold, too dusty, too smelly, too loud, too quiet, too cramped etc.?

5. Work life balance

Many UK employees have a poor work life balance scoring near the bottom at 24th out of 25 similar economies, according to a recent CIPD report.

Sometimes, this poor work-life balance could be part of the contract, but often it’s simply expected as part of the work culture.

Do you work anti-social hours, including early mornings, late nights and weekends? Are you expected to work regular overtime, whether paid or not paid? Do you think this is fair?

6. Recognition

Recognition can come in different forms. It doesn’t have to be grand or extravagant to bring value to the recipient. However, it’s often conspicuous in its absence, with no thanks or acknowledgement shown. This also ties to failure to be compensated accordingly.

7. Progression

Let’s consider your opportunities to progress where you are. Is there a clear and fair path to progression, or is there no realistic chance to develop either sideways or upwards?

Maybe you’ve made your plans clear, but you’ve been overlooked or even side-lined.

8. Development

Sadly, many employers allow little time or budget (if any) for personal or professional development.

Are you expected to perform at a certain technical or professional level without the appropriate level of investment and support from your employer? Generally, most workers enjoy learning new skills when they feel they benefit from their new capabilities.

9. Commute

How about your commute? The average commuting duration for UK commuters is around 45 mins but rising year-on-year.

Most people are probably far more tolerant than I’ll ever be on this front. Is it too far, too time-consuming, too unpredictable, too stressful, too expensive?

toxic work environment

Is your work environment toxic? What can you do? 

So, you’ve identified something that’s making your work environment toxic? Maybe more than one?

I’m not saying that all these things are simple, nor can be easily resolved. But we do generally have more choices than we might imagine. We also have responsibilities to ourselves, as much as to others.

Here are a few steps to take:

Step 1 – Self-awareness

What are you putting up with? Start to notice and write a list of things you’re putting up with. Was this a surprise or were you already aware? How and why is this happening?

Step 2 – Priorities

Determine what’s most important to address and how to do this. Think small and simple to begin with. This will give you the confidence and motivation to continue to higher priorities.

Step 3 – Action

Pick one at a time to be addressed. Do it. Enjoy the feeling. Celebrate success!

Repeat steps 1-3 again.


Many of us are simply ‘putting up with stuff’ at work. There are many reasons for this, all perfectly rational and reasonable in isolation. But these can compound over time: taking us from easiness, to tolerance to acceptance.

It’s key to remember that you are not stuck in the here and now, whatever you think.  You have choices and you can move forward. You don’t have to simply put up with things that aren’t acceptable to you anymore.

Ready to take the first step? Set up a complimentary career discussion and see what options you have.

Alternatively, to help you understand what you want out of your work, we offer Motivational Maps and a Career Compass to put you in the right directions.

Thanks for reading. Check out other Blue Diamond articles to help you take control of your work and life.