Are You in a Toxic Job?

You could be in a toxic job if you face any of these situations at work. This toxicity could pervade other aspects of your life too. 


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I wear many hats. But "writer/storyteller" has to be my 'oldest' and most favourite. I wrote my first short story at the age of 6. It was a murder mystery. Ever since then, I have been writing.

When I started my first job, fresh out of college, I would leave home at 8 am and wouldn't reach back until 9 or even 10 pm. I wasn't doing what I loved and the organization I was working for had also disappointed me on many levels. The only highlight of my day was talking to my best friend (who worked elsewhere) during my lunch break.

I was frustrated and it showed. I counted down to Friday evenings and felt angry on Monday mornings. At office, I would be checking the time every 10 minutes or so. But most of all, I lost the ability to write.

It was no writers' block. It was as if I was thirsty and the oasis of words in my mind had dried up. For an amateur writer like me, that condition was like a death sentence.

I left that job in a month. I even paid a ridiculously high sum to buy out my notice period. I didn't mind though. To me, that money was used to buy my freedom and creativity back. I think it was money well- spent.

I'm in a new job now. I love what I'm doing. And it shows. No Monday blues. And my best friend has reported that our lunch break conversations are no longer monologues where I'm ranting about how much I hate my job. Most importantly, no more writing troubles. I'm back to writing like I used to. I can feel the difference.

If you're in a toxic job, you can see its effects permeate other aspects of your life. You constantly feel stressed, angry or depressed in your personal life because of things going downhill in your professional life. This could negatively affect your health and you could find yourself falling sick often. I'm not saying that everyone should love everything about their jobs. There is no such thing as a 'perfect job'. But if you find yourself dreading going into work on a daily basis, or faking illnesses, and taking leaves just because you can't bear to even step into your office, something is definitely wrong.

Here are some other common signs:

1. Constant boredom

I’m not saying every aspect of your job should be interesting. I know my college lecturers who loved teaching but hated taking up the responsibility of getting student performances organized for the Founders’ Day celebrations. However if you are constantly bored out of your wits, you might not be doing what you love to do.

2. You’re a Misfit

After a few weeks, you should have figured out the basics of your workplace culture and initiated bonds with your colleagues. I’m a morning person. I like the idea of a 9 to 5 workplace so that I have some time for myself in the evening. I would turn up daily to work at 9am at my former organization. However, my superiors would expect me to stay back till 8 or 9pm along with the others who would show up after 11am. This did not go down well with me. Likewise, if your colleagues aren’t on similar wavelengths as you, you wouldn’t probably bond with them as well.

3. You Don’t Go Out of Your Way

During my internship, once I finished a task, I would often check with my co-workers if there was something else I could help out with. This wasn’t the case at my first job. I tried to hand in my work only at the last minute in order to ensure that I don’t have to take up something else. If you find yourself meeting only the bare minimum requirements in every project or assignment you are handed, you might be having a problem.

4. The Paycheck is the Only Thing you Look Forward to

I used to believe that holding my paycheck at the end of the month would make up for all the troubles and toxicity. What actually happened was that I found myself turning in my resignation letter the day after I received the paycheck. As you can see, money isn’t a good motivator. If you find that the pay check is the only thing you look forward to, it would be a safe guess that your job isn’t the right one for you. Remember, you work for almost a quarter of your life, sometimes even more. Why would you want to waste all of that on a lousy, toxic job?

5. Professional growth has become stagnant

If you’ve spent more than 3 months at your job and not learnt a single new thing - whether a skill, new perspective, or life experience, your job is limiting you. I spent my first month being told that I would be taught this and that during the course of my job. At the end, I realized I didn’t even learn enough to look back and say “This is what my time at XYZ Inc. taught me.” If this holds true for you, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate your situation.

6. You only look forward to the weekends

Like I mentioned, I counted down to Friday evenings and woke up feeling upset and angry on Monday mornings. Weekends were the only days I looked forward to because it meant I could be far away from my job, my superiors and my colleagues. Everyone, even those who love their jobs, enjoys the weekend. However, if your days-off are the only things you look forward to in a week, that’s a strong sign that you are in a toxic job.

7. Your opinions aren’t valued

I worked as a content writer and marketer for a startup whose primary clients were people from my demographic. However, every time I drafted something for our social media posts, my idea was shut down immediately by my superior, who was at least 10 years and a generation apart from me. She wasn’t even trying to understand where my ideas were coming from or willing to run an experimental campaign using my work. She wanted me to stick to ideas that her stamp of approval. After a point a time, I just stopped being creative and thinking out-of-the-box.

8. You have to be someone else

Your workplace doesn’t value you for who you are. So you spend 8 hours acting like you are somebody else. From the way you talk to the way you dress, pretending to be someone else for so long, sounds terribly insane. But you wouldn’t be the first and only to do it. Many others put on a facade because they’re afraid of what might happen if they take it off.

9. Criticism is Routine for you

Sometimes criticism can help you to grow and avoid mistakes in the future. However, if you and your work are constantly getting criticized, you could be in a job that doesn’t play to your strengths. If you’re doing everything wrong, all the time, wouldn’t you be doing yourself and your organization a favour by quitting your job?

If you find yourself nodding “Yes” to most of the above, you might be in a toxic job. Maybe it's time to change employers. You need to set your boundaries. You need to take control your emotional and physical well-being. You need to value your time and your priorities. Nobody else but YOU can help yourself.

I always heard that toxic relationships can affect your writing. For me, that relationship was my old job. Toxicity stifles creativity. Toxicity kills happiness. I was lucky I got out before the damage caused became irreparable and it was too late.

If you find that you have a history of being in toxic jobs, or new to the job market (like me) with no clue how to move forward from this professional setback, one of the best things you can do, is speak with an executive coach. Coaching can help you to determine where you went wrong, and help you come with a job strategy that can prevent you from repeating those mistakes again.

Want to speak to a coach? Book an appointment on for a free no-obligation session with a certified executive coach. Unleash your True Potential. At Work. In Life.

Questions for Reflection

How did the toxicity from your job permeate other aspects of your life?

What solutions did you employ to deal with a toxic workplace?

Is there a pattern you see in your employment history? 

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Chaitra K

With a background in Literature and Psychology, and an MBA in Human Resources Management, Chaitra is responsible for the design and production of NKoach’s courses, workshops and corporate training programs. Her mission is to help people discover their passion and become better versions of themselves.

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