Eight signs you’re in a toxic environment

Many of us will experience a relationship with someone or something that’s harmful to us, if we haven’t already. With hindsight it may seem obvious, but there are often early warning signs, so educate yourself so that you can notice them before it’s too late.

1. Inconsistent Leadership

According to leadership consultant George Bradt, “Consistency is a trust builder. Inconsistency is jarring.” When an organization lacks consistent leadership, the participants aren’t able to form a solid foundation of trust because they never know what to expect from their so-called leader. If the leader is constantly contradicting themselves, their rules or their expectations, they’re creating a toxic environment.

2. Leader Doesn’t Listen

Matt Myatt, the author of “Hacking Leadership: The 11 Gaps Every Business Needs to Close and the Secrets to Closing Them Quickly,” says that listening is essential to understand others before we can be understood by others. Leaders should make sure they are never too busy to listen. Myatt thinks that a leader needs to be able to understand people’s nonverbal communication and listen to that just as well as their verbal communication. If an organization’s leader doesn’t listen to subordinates, assistants or anyone else, that’s a warning sign.

3. People at the Bottom Are Quitting

As the old saying goes, “people quit their bosses, not their jobs.” Eric Jackson, a specialist in strategic management, encourages leaders to take a look in the mirror and realize that the main reason people quit a program is in fact due to the leadership, or lack thereof. Jackson says it is important for leaders to be around and involved in their program, but they must not micromanage. It is also crucial for leaders to give their people a sense of how far they can go with their career. If you look around and see an unusual number of people exiting the organization early, that probably spells trouble.

4. People at the Top Are Quitting

According to management consultant John Haynes III, a leader has to show their assistants true respect — otherwise they will be looking for ways to leave. Leaders who publicly demean their subordinate managers are definitely creating a toxic environment.  If the layer of administration immediately below the leader is heading for the exits, you probably should too.

5. Participants Don’t Have Fun

The authors of the book Fish! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results believe that when participants in a program aren’t fun, they bring with them their own toxic energy. This self-inflicted toxic energy spreads like wildfire from person to person until the entire program is caught in the sludge. “You can only rely on external energy in the beginning…you need to replace the external energy with a more natural internal energy,” the authors say. In other words, if the organization isn’t providing a fun, positive atmosphere, then it’s probably not healthy.

6. Leader never talks about life 

In an editorial posted on Forbes, Mike Myatt explains why having conversation in the form of dialogue instead of a monologue is better for employees. “If you don’t develop meaningful relationships with people you’ll never know what’s really on their mind until it’s too late to do anything about it,” Myatt said.

7. You’re Not Improving

According to Candice Frankovelgia of the Center for Creative Leadership, the ability to coach and develop others leads to more work being done more efficiently. If a leader is unable to develop the skills necessary for a participant within their program to thrive, they will eventually fall behind and become less productive and beneficial to the team. Your leader’s goal should be to help you grow and improve, and if that’s not happening, then that organization may not be beneficial for you.

8. Feedback Is Ignored

Lundin, Paul and Christensen mention the importance of being open to feedback from people within the program as well as people outside of the program. This is crucial because it allows for both the leader and the participants to see how the outside world views them and how they view themselves. Once all feedback is collected and analyzed, the leader needs to discuss the results with the participants to make sure everyone is on the same page. If this isn’t happening, then it’s a good sign that this organization is probably not right for you.

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Olivia Evans is the Assignment Editor this year. When she isn't busy with her academics she can be found in the shot put and disc ring throwing for gold. She loves adventuring and trying new things in life. She can also be found volunteering regularly.

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