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5 Clues That Your Office Is a Psychologically Unhealthy Workplace

Topics: Career Advice
toxic coworkers

Do you hate your job? Your toxic work environment might be to blame. A psychologically unhealthy workplace increases stress, anxiety, and depression in employees. In a 2012 report for the Mental Health Commission of Canada, reported by Psychology Today, Martin Shain argued that even people without mental illness could experience issues as a result of working in “psychologically unsafe workplaces.”

If you dread going to work in the morning, experience physical symptoms like frequent, unexplained headaches or stomachaches, or find yourself venting about work all the time, your workplace itself might be psychologically unhealthy.

Here are a few signs to watch out for:

1. Your Boss Micromanages Methods of Work

Good managers are interested in the end product. Supervisors who try to control all aspects of work are said to “micromanage” employees. For example, if you work best by reading a paper report while highlighting text and drafting notes in the margins, it is extremely frustrating to be told that you are required to go “paperless” and read all reports on a computer screen. It also hinders your productivity, and your end product may be less than stellar.

The best analogy is making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Which do you apply first, the peanut butter or the jelly? Do you use a spoon or butter knife in the jelly? There are countless ways to make this sandwich, and the end result tastes the same, so why slow down the chef by micromanaging? If you are that chef, your stress levels will skyrocket when you feel you are not allowed to work the way you are most comfortable and productive.

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2. You’re Kept in the Dark About Important Information

Effective managers communicate openly about how or why decisions are made. It’s unsettling to work in an environment where decisions seem arbitrary. Secretive managers and employers often make employees feel inferior and insecure. Does your manager discuss workplace issues and decisions with you, or do you feel confused about things that have a direct effect upon your life at work?

3. Your Manager Fails to Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

When you do something well, does your boss take credit? It can feel like a slap in the face. Appreciation is a fundamental human need. Employees respond to appreciation expressed through recognition of their good work, because it confirms their work is valued. When employees and their work are not valued, their productivity decreases as their stress levels and satisfaction with their jobs rises.

Recognition can be formal or informal, but it has to happen. Even a “good job” or “thank you” is important. When other people take credit for your hard work and innovation, it demotivates you.

4. You Feel Like You Can’t Say No

We’ve all heard how we must be “team players,” and we’re certainly not suggesting that employees refuse to sacrifice in order to get things done. There is a line, however. Where that line falls may be different for different employees; for example, if your boss calls you at 6 a.m. and you don’t mind, perhaps this is not unreasonable. For many employees, this behavior would be considered unreasonable.

If you routinely have to cancel plans in your personal life to accommodate last-minute deadlines and “rush” projects, you will start to burn out. If you can’t say, “No, I’m not able to do this,” without fearing for your job, your situation may be untenable. If your family or friends start noticing that you are never there for them because you have to cancel plans to work, your boss may be unreasonable. An occasional out-of-the-ordinary emergency at work does not make a pattern, but if this happens on a regular basis you will likely experience increases in your stress levels and a decrease in your quality of life.

5. Your Employer Doesn’t Recognize Your Legal Rights

All employees have basic rights in the workplace, including the right to a work environment free from discrimination and harassment. (For the most part: there are some caveats, alas.) If you think your legal rights are being infringed upon, it’s best to talk to an employment lawyer, start looking for another job … or both.

Tell Us What You Think

Does this feel all too familiar? If so, tell us how you handle the situation. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

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Sharon McIlhargey
Sharon McIlhargey

Toxic? Try plagued! I worked at a security company where being done at 11 pm & back on at 7 am was normal. Panicked calls from the supervisor to fill a shift on my day off, leaving the building or on the way home because someone quit again (usually a newb) or were going to be late yet again (9 out of 10 times it was the young guys with cars, girls & still lived at home past 21 years… Read more »


Does anyone find themselves in a situation were you feel that your HIPPAA rights have been voliated by their boss . I do, she is is a position to look at medical records from hospitalization or ambulatory surgery . But I can not prove this at this time. I feel this because of thing that she says to me that she could not know . I have also heard her say , ‘I could look on the hospital”. she made… Read more »

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