Toxic workplaces can take many forms. But often, a toxic workplace is one with behaviour that makes it an unpleasant place to work – and that behaviour isn’t dealt with.

Toxic workplaces can occur at all levels of an organisation, often (but not always) based on seniority and title, and they always include people whose behaviour lacks empathy, compassion and understanding.

Unfortunately, unhealthy behaviors are often rewarded, either explicitly or implicitly, which reinforces it. The impact can be devastating, leaving people feeling negative, resentful, withdrawn and lacking in trust.

So, how can you be sure that the workplace you’re in is toxic?

Through the research, SEEK asked Australians what they thought the best indicators were.

Here are the top four signs people told us about:

• Where employees are walking on eggshells (45%)

• Where there are cliques, gossip or rumours (44%)

• Where different employees receive different messages from leadership (44%)

• Where bullying has taken place and no action is taken when it is reported (41%)

Toxic workplaces also involve a lack of praise and positive feedback, avoidance, and even secrecy. This results in people keeping their grievances and concerns to themselves or sharing them on the underground grapevine.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your working life – a toxic work environment can negatively impact mental health, self-confidence, job satisfaction, and even the ability to do your job well.

More than 80% of people reported that toxic work environments have a big impact on their mental health. So much so that nearly 50% reported leaving their job because of toxicity and 31% said they’d taken time off work to deal with the fallout of an unhealthy workplace.

A negative work environment is one thing, but if what you’re dealing with could be bullying or harassment, there are places you can go to for more information and help:

The Fair Work Ombudsman

SafeWork Australia

The Australian Human Rights Commission

Everyone has the right not to be bullied or harassed at work.

Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, interviewing 4800 Australians annually. Published March 2021.