• Susie Aguilar

Is Your Workplace TOXIC? Signs To Look For Now!

Is the disguise of good benefits and pay shielding you from seeing that your organization is actually toxic? Sitting in the comforts can make it hard to take a good hard look at what the environment we are working in really looks like.

Today we are talking about the signs you need to pay attention to in case you are working in a toxic environment! I walk you through those tall tale signs to help you recognize if it’s time to reevaluate your current path.

Still feeling stuck after reflecting on this? It’s okay, that happened to me too until I found clarity. It was really hard to figure out how to pivot in my life. As a career transition strategist, I mentor you along the way so you can dive deep into the path you want to take and we build a roadmap to get you there. No more struggling or doing this alone. Book your FREE strategy session with me today!

We are fierce women and we deserve to chase after what fuels us, now let’s do this!

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You can learn more at www.unorthodoxbusinessmom.com

All My Love,

Susie Q

~ Prefer reading? Below is the full show transcript ~


It's a beautiful day here in Southern California and I have been itching all day along to record this episode for you. I believe it's a really big topic that is going to open up a huge conversation, or I hope at least bring some awareness to you. We are diving into whether or not you are working in a toxic workplace and what signs you need to be looking out for. Let's jump in.


Are you ready to have this juicy conversation? As I've been preparing for today's show, I have got so many ideas that I could spend a ton of time on this topic. And I imagine that you probably have a bunch of things that you may even add to this list. So I'm going to open the door right now and invite you into this conversation. If you have some telltale signs that you believe indicate someone is working for a toxic workplace, we need to have a chat.


You know, you can reach out to me on all the different social media platforms that I link in the show notes, but you can also reach out to me and just message or email me. I always share my contact information, but I believe that we have so many different examples and experiences of things that we have been through in our career journey that we have a lot to talk about today. I am going to try and keep it more high level, but these are things that not only have come out of years of me working in various industries, people that I've talked to, clients that they've shared their horror stories with me, this is a consolidation of signs to keep an eye on. As you navigate your professional journey.


One thing I want to caution you before we dive into these different signs is that sometimes there's this really beautiful disguise of having fantastic benefits, great pay and all these other frills and thrills that we may see or experience through our employment. The thing is that that might be a coverup for something else happening, right? And that's what I want to make sure that we're just bringing attention to this in your life, in your career. And you can start to recognize whether or not you're working for a stellar employer, or maybe it's time for you to start evaluating the situation that you're in and what that environment looks like.


And I also, I apologize, you may have just heard a little grumbling sound and yes, my cohost Wonka is here. So she is huffing and puffing along with me because some of the stories that we've heard, things that I've experienced, and other people that I've had conversations with over the years really are going to stick out. And hopefully help you pinpoint whether or not this is the case for you too.


The first telltale sign for me has always been whether or not there's good or bad communication. So when there's poor communication in an organization, you might sometimes hear things through the grapevine and find out stuff that really should have been brought to your attention by senior management or leadership. Right? We hear it through the grapevine. Sometimes there's cliques or groups, and they're the ones that are generating gossip and things are happening around the organization. And it's filtering through them. That's not a good telephone game to play. Have you ever played that game telephone? And the message at the very end of that gets very misconstrued and is not accurate whatsoever. Well, the same is true in an organization. We want to have really good communication. So that's one of the first signs.


The next one is the employee turnover rate, how fast people are coming in and coming out that door is really, really high. That's usually a sign that something's going on and they cannot retain people and they're having to replace them pretty quickly. So that's a really clear indicator as well.


Next is the people, the employees, you know, all your colleagues, maybe there's a lot of them that aren't motivated or they just seem very unsatisfied. I actually remember this particular person that I worked with many, many years ago. This was like over 10 years ago. Okay. And this individual was so disconnected from the entire organization. I remember him sleeping in his cubicle. He seemed to always be very disgruntled. And it was like, that person was so unhappy that he literally was falling apart in his cubicle, waiting for the official retirement ticket to walk out the door. He was just putting in the time wasn't engaged. And I felt so bad for him. And of course it could get frustrating too, right? If you're a go getter, that's how I feel. I'm a go getter. And I'm always trying to, you know, grow and do new things. And this person just, it felt like they could drag you down to. When you see people like that in an organization. Because let's just be honest and transparent that sometimes there are just certain people that they might be a negative Nellie. And that's always their perspective and not very optimistic. He wasn't the only one I saw, he just happened to be the one that stuck out in my mind. There were other people like that where you could just tell they weren't happy. They were just kinda there to earn their paycheck and that thrill and excitement to do good work just didn't seem to radiate in that area. So that could be another indicator.


The next one is one that I've seen myself in my career and I've heard this from other companies and clients as well. It's that they see that the company is just not open to the team members sharing and giving new ideas or strategies or trying to make pivots in maybe processes or the things that they do as an organization. And the way I've kind of also seen this embodied in organizations is, and I'm using my little air quotes here is "well, we've always done it that way". You know, when you hear those words come out of someone's mouth and they just are hesitant to have an open conversation or to see if there's a more efficient way to do things, you feel kind of stuck. Don't we, we feel like, "Oh, what do I do now?" I can't bring new ideas. This system that they're using, maybe is a dinosaurs system, it doesn't keep up with the times or it doesn't let us grow our business in different ways. And they're just very much firm in their position of we're doing it this way. It's always been this way. We're not changing. And that can be a little bit frustrating, but an indicator that it's a toxic place that doesn't want to grow and expand, right?


The next one is you have managers versus leaders. There's a huge difference in managers versus leaders. And I could go a whole lot into detail. Maybe that'll be a future podcast. The thing that I want to talk about here is just whether or not you're seeing people leading by example, leaders that are willing to pull others along and provide a mentorship versus just demanding and commanding. That's a really big sign that, you know what, these are just people that want to manage people and manage processes, but they're not about creating a culture, which we'll get into that as well. But that's where you see managing people versus leading people. And that can really kill our morale.


The next one is that they don't have respect for your boundaries or your values. And on top of that, they don't have boundaries of their own. And I'm going to lay it all out here and say that I truly believe that no matter what level of the organization you're in, if you're an entry level person, or if you're in the elite, you know, executive status, we all are allowed and entitled and should give ourselves permission to disconnect. We need to separate work and life and personal and all those things and have an opportunity to really separate ourselves. And if we don't see those boundaries being respected by the leadership of our organizations, then that's a really clear sign that they don't want you to do that either. And I don't believe in that. So I would say that's another really big area.


The next one, this is a doozy. You don't feel valued or appreciated. That's a really unsettling feeling when we do hard work. When we show up every day, when we are trying to deliver the very best, we want to know that all that hard work and effort is being appreciated. And if you're not feeling that where you're at, then that's a pretty bad sign.


Next, can we talk about something that might be a little bit difficult to hear for anyone that's in the executive level? If things are being done only from an executive's perspective, you know, leading from the top down, as they say. We're not receiving input from all levels of staff, then that makes it very challenging for our teams, right? And it just doesn't allow them to do their very best work because they're not on point and on the same page as to what direction the organization is going. Or understanding you as an executive leader, understanding what challenges the staff is having, what their day to day things. Well, what does that do? If we feel like management is just pushing things down on us, then it's definitely going to kill our morale, right? And then your efficiency and work product is not going to be the same. So one of the telltale signs here that I want to make sure I'm hitting spot on is that changes and input are only received from executive level staff versus the holistic perspective of other people in the organization. We want to make sure we're including our people.


And then layer onto that, my next sign. And that is that you don't have a culture that is inviting, or it varies by different departments and areas of your organization. If you're seeing that as an employee, that really puts a little bit of caution in your step of, "Hey, if the culture doesn't feel right, something is not vibing here." So what's going on and why is the culture not one that's more welcoming? So a toxic culture and a toxic environment is a really bad combination.


Earlier I was mentioning how there's a difference between managing versus leading. The next sign that I think is a pretty big one, is that there is little to no example from your leadership team of what a work life balance looks like. And I know I mentioned it a little bit earlier, but what I really want to hone in on is that aspect of leading by example. Because what we see as happening by our leadership team and by those around us, then we feel like we can model that. Well, if they're not modeling a work life balance and identifying that it is key for us to have a good variety in our professional lives and our personal lives, then that really is going to be a challenge for you. If you deeply value your time outside of the office, the leading by example is something that I think is really important and something that you should be keeping an eye out if that's being implemented in your workplace.


The next one is your health. And you know that I've shared my personal journey quite a bit on the show. And if you haven't please go tune into some of my earlier episodes where I talk about kind of where I've been and my current status, as far as healing and recovery after my big health scare. But one of the things that I think is a very clear indicator is that either you have a significant, or maybe even a slowly declining health situation happening. Or the flip side of this, and this is something I've heard countless times from different people that I've spoken to, is that you sorta kind of wish that you could get a little bit sick, just so that you don't have to be at work, or you know, that it's not so bad of a health situation, but you can get some time off. That is definitely something we should not be wishing and hoping for my friends. And if that is your scenario, then that's a clear sign to find a new path. Staying there is only going to make your health worse. And there's no other way to put it, but it's not okay. It's not acceptable and you need to put a stop to that. That's a huge one. And I'm only saying that as a proponent because I've had my health completely challenged, and I recognize that I have to set up boundaries for myself. It's not easy. You know, we all want to do really good work and do different things. My friends, your health, without your health, you're nothing without being able to care for yourself, you can't care for anyone else and be productive and be successful, or be ambitious. That wouldn't be possible. Please keep that in mind, dig deeper into that and really open up your eyes to it.


The next one I have for you is if you ever have sudden bouts of anger or fear in the workplace, maybe it's an attitude change, or maybe you're having mood swings in the office, and I'm not talking about, you know, for us ladies hormonal type things or anything like that. I just mean that maybe you're in a meeting and you feel great when you first get there. And then all of a sudden, it feels like your whole day got flipped on its head because someone made a comment or you weren't respected in a meeting. Or, you know, things that are around you happening that just really boil up and cause frustration or anger or anxiety or fear, whatever that outlet looks like for you. That's not typical. And if it's a one off thing, there could be situations where we get heated. Totally. I get that. And I agree with that. Or I've experienced, should I say that that's okay to happen every once in a while, but if this has happened pretty periodically or frequently, my friends, it's time to evaluate. It's time to really be reflective. So take a look at that.


And then my bonus sign for you that this is just something I cannot stress enough and that I don't know any other way to express than to just say it the way that I feel it myself. And that is overall, you just have this deep gut wrenching sense inside of you, in the pit of your stomach, that something is wrong or something is off and you just cannot shake it. There are those times that you just internally, we just know, we just have that intuition when that's happening and you're getting those clear signs.


And you've walked through these other indicators I've shared with you. I think it's time for us to do a little evaluation, a little time to reflect. And if you're saying yes to a lot of these, it's time to really take a step back and recognize is this the right journey for you?


Are you on the right path right now? And is this somewhere that you can see yourself staying? If your answer is no, everything's great. And I love it. Fantastic. Then that's amazing. Well, guess how you can use this? You can use these tips, these signs that I'm sharing with you to help other people that may be experiencing a toxic workplace. Or if you're in a leadership role of making sure that these areas are things that your organization is making sure that you're on top of and trying to find ways to create a more positive environment for your employees. So don't feel like you can dismiss yourself from these things and think that, "Oh, well, it doesn't apply to me no big deal." I absolutely believe that we have a role in helping other people pivot and helping other people recognize how they can improve their own environments. And these might be great strategies for you to help them walk through. So I just want to invite you to have an open mind when it comes to that.


And as you know, I love to end the show with some quotes and I had some fun with this. So I actually have two for you today because I was just that inspired by two of them that I came across. The first one I have for you is actually one that I found by Laws of Modern Women. And the quote says:

"Emotions that arise from a toxic work environment, seep into every aspect of your life. Get out! No job is worth that kind of misery."


Isn't that true? Isn't it true that as much as we try to say we separate our work from our life and we don't intermingle the two. I don't believe in that. I used to say that balance was everything. And yes, I still believe that we have to have some sort of balance. The thing is that it's not a 50/50 balance, right? It's more of a, "Hey today, I need to balance my work life a little bit less because my home life needs more attention or vice versa." And I can never separate my emotions if I just had a really bad situation happen at home, I can't walk in and be completely clearheaded. When I walk into the office, like as much as I may try, it's still something that we're going to struggle with. And we can't completely disconnect and disassociate one from the other. The reason why I picked this quote is because if we're in a toxic environment in our jobs. How much of our time, oftentimes we're in a job, if you work a typical 40 hour week, if you work that many hours, oftentimes you're at work more than you are with your family. More than you are at home, right? Doing other things, whatever your scenario looks like, if it has that much influence in your life, and it's a negative environment, imagine how much it's impacting your home life, your outside of work life. It's a lot. And we carry that heaviness with us and don't even recognize it.


And that's what I want to make you aware of. That's all, this is this isn't me telling you. Oh, you said yes to every one of these signs. Quit your job tomorrow. No, my friends, that's not my advice here. What I'm saying is you need to recognize if you're in a more positive or a negative environment. Then if you are seeing that, start to work your way through it, right? We start to take those baby steps I always talk about.


And then my second quote is, and this is something that I don't know who the author is, but it's something that I've heard so many times in my career and I believe it to be extremely accurate. And that is that:

"People don't leave jobs. They leave toxic work cultures."


So if you're sitting in a negative workplace, you're not leaving because you know, maybe you have a stellar boss and that boss is just fantastic. You love working for them, but you see that they're trying everything possible to make it a good, positive working environment. And no matter what they try to do, the senior management above them is stomping all over that parade and not letting you all have a functional environment or a positive environment. That's really rough. So it's not even about your boss sometimes, right? It's about the culture and the bigger organization at large, that makes it very rough.


So if you're in the HR industry, then that's one of the things that we have to caution our clients, right? The organizations is that if you're having a lot of high turnover rates, part of the reason why is because something culturally is happening within the organization that you have to take a deeper dive on. I just hope that we can see it that way and start to understand what we can do to help and improve that.


But if you're getting an overwhelming amount of nodding your head in agreement with the things that I shared with you today, as far as what the signs are in a toxic workplace, my friends it's time for you to take a step back.


I ask you to please take some time and drill this out. You know, drill this down, take a look at it, journal it out. What are the things you're seeing? And if it's a good environment, fantastic, you know, you could still write that out because if at some point you transitioned to a different career or you decide, you want to launch a business, you can say, this is the type of leadership I want to model. This is the type of environment I want to create for my people, because we're responsible on both ends. And as an employee, we can do things to help that culture, or we can do things that add to that negativity and toxic environment.


What are you doing today to either help it or to find ways to change it? Let's just think of, if we can do one little thing a day, maybe we can help improve it for not just ourselves, but the people around us too. So I hope that this message has been helpful to you and that you are enjoying the episode and looking forward to seeing you on Friday. I have an awesome topic that I'll be sharing with you, which just so happens to be on my husband's and I 10 year wedding anniversary. So tune in to the juicy details on that episode, have a beautiful week. My friends I'll see you soon.

Hey Lovely ~ Before you go, are you wanting to dive deeper on how to embrace your fears and pivot in your life and career? I have free resources and tools for you!

  • Are you wanting to combat fear? If you said yes, grab your FREE simple handout today!

  • Something I share about is the importance of setting a foundation and boundaries in our life and career. We do that by identifying our values and I have a free worksheet you can download if you are ready to pinpoint them in either English or Spanish.

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