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How to spot a toxic work environment in your first week

UNDER PRESSURE: Workplace stress is reaching toxic levels in many industries. Picture: Supplied

UNDER PRESSURE: Workplace stress is reaching toxic levels in many industries. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 21, 2022


CAPE TOWN: One of the leading causes of stress among employees comes from working in a toxic environment. It can create mental and physical health issues and impact on an employee’s personal life.

As much as working from home might have provided an alternative to the toxic work environment, it has also made us see why it is better to be alone instead of surrounded by people who make a work environment toxic.

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Company culture plays a significant role in employee wellness. If the work environment is not welcoming and hospitable, employees will eventually start feeling the negativity and this can lead to burnout. It will also lead to employees resigning or looking for jobs elsewhere.

The bottom line is a toxic work environment should be avoided at all costs.

If you are about to take a job offer and you are worried about the toxicity of the workplace, then here’s what you should look out for:

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* Your new colleagues are quick to gossip. If you have just joined a new company and your new co-workers wait for an opportunity to go at it about another co-worker, then this is a red flag. This indicates that the drama is more important to the employees than the work.

* On your first day or week, you are not welcomed. When you are a new employee, colleagues would ideally make an effort to show you around or introduce themselves. If you find there isn’t a hospitable vibe around inducting or welcoming a new employee, then the work culture there is in need of major improvement.

* By the same token, if a colleague has been assigned to mentor you or have you shadow them while you get your workspace in order but they are whining and trying to pawn you off to someone else, then that workplace is toxic. A healthy work environment is one in which staff are determined to guide new employees instead of leaving them to their own accord. A colleague not wanting to help you or show you how work is done could also imply that they are not proud of the work they are doing. This could also indicate that they are not pretending. They are not excited to show you around or how the workplace is because they are demotivated.

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* If in your first week there you witness rude behaviour, it’s a sign that this is normal in this workplace. The fact is that a toxic environment is one in which people are treated disrespectfully. If the workplace does not respect both clients and staff, then rethink your decision to join the firm. The reality is that bad or rude behaviour can be contagious and, after a while, being in this environment will have a negative impact on your mental health. It’s even more of a concern when managers don’t intervene.

* On your first day there, you find yourself not looking forward to the next day. There is a huge difference between having a bad day and having a dreadful day. A bad day can be when you spill coffee on your shirt or get caught in traffic. A dreadful day would be when you feel unhappy. This is when you should decide if you want to remain in a work environment that makes you feel that way.

* Listen to your gut. If you feel this environment isn’t one that would help you grow as a person, then make strides to leave before you become comfortable.

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A toxic work environment can also be spotted during an interview. Be sure to ask the right questions and conduct due research before signing your contract.

* Devan Moonsamy is the CEO of ICHAF Training Institute, a South African TVET College. He is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, and My Leadership Legacy Journal available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

Cape Times

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