professional development

Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Leaving a Toxic Work Environment: 7 Signs That It’s Time to Move On

PUBLISHED May 12th, 2021 & UPDATED ON Nov 23rd, 2022

Has a coworker ever taken credit for your hard work? Do you have a boss who CLEARLY plays favourites among the team? Or is your workplace just constantly filled with bullying and harassment? If you said ‘YES’ to any of these, you’re likely dealing with a toxic work environment! Remember that movie, Horrible Bosses? Yeah…like that.

A negative work environment is both mentally AND physically taxing and, if you’re going through it right now, chances are you are reaaally struggling. It can feel so isolating and you probably spend every single morning DREADING your workday (we definitely get it). Just the idea of spending another year at that place makes you sick to your stomach. You should never feel like that at work, so we’re going to help you recognize those toxic behaviours and provide some tips that’ll help you get the heck outta there!  

What Is a Toxic Work Environment?

A toxic workplace tends to put money and company success over the needs of their employees. Kinda messed up, considering said employees are the reason for the company’s success. As a result, you feel underappreciated which drives down your motivation (potentially causing more negative feedback). It’s all around not a good time. So, let’s break down what factors come into play in toxic work culture, how to deal with them, and how to put your needs first and LEAVE. 

7 Toxic Work Environment Characteristics

If you’re crying at work or still stressed outside of work, those are usually good indicators that things are not playing out in your best interest. The same goes for constant negative performance reviews (or even no reviews whatsoever), being told there’s 0 chance of a promotion or pay raise, and constantly dreaming about leaving one day and never coming back! 

Consider this a toxic workplace checklist with examples of the main ways an employer can spread animosity and toxicity:

  • No Breaks: You’re overworked and underpaid, and your work always follows you home!
  • Fear: You’re terrified of making a mistake because you’ll be scrutinized for it!
  • No Support: It’s allll about output, and never about your mental or physical wellbeing!
  • Abuse: You’re verbally abused or sexually harrassed by toxic coworkers, and scared to ask for help for fear of losing pay or benefits!
  • No Recognition: You never get rewarded for your hard work, which majorly decreases your motivation!
  • Guilt Tripping: If you’re thinking of leaving, you’re convinced into staying through fear-mongering or false promises!
  • No Accountability: You’re blamed for the mistakes of others just because you’re lower in the hierarchy!

Of course, there are many more things that can happen in a toxic workplace environment, but these are some of the core struggles that have a big effect on your mental health! And the mental impacts can turn physical suuuper quickly if you stay in that unhealthy situation. You’ll experience extreme burnout, get sick more often because the stress affects your immune system, and likely see an increase in depression and anxiety.

How to Deal with a Toxic Work Environment 

It’s tough navigating how long to stay in a toxic work environment. The easy answer would be to tell you to leave, but it’s not always that simple! You probably rely on that job security to cover rent, groceries and other living expenses. Plus, in a poor economy (or a pandemic), the job hunt can be ENDLESS. So, we’ve brainstormed some tips to help you put your mind at ease if you just can’t leave your job right now.

1. Set Boundaries

Don’t bring your work home and ALWAYS take your lunch break

2. Find Outlets

Find a hobby or something you love (like exercise, cooking, or art) to relieve stress.

3. Find a Support System

Find a friend, or family member, outside of work that you can vent to. They might feel like they have to comfort you by offering advice, but it’s okay if you just need to get some anger or sadness off your chest. If that’s the case, ask them to just listen.

4. Avoid Chatter

It can be SO tempting to swap horror stories with colleagues to relieve stress (and feel less alone), but it can fuel the fire and make a bad situation worse. So, try to avoid those whisper sessions happening over at the water cooler. Just slap on those noise-cancelling headphones and drown it all out. 

Who knows, maybe you’ll be able to find a better (and healthier) opportunity sooner than you think. (Our fingers are crossed for you!) So, send out as many resumes as you can while you’re still at this job and keep those options open! 

Leaving a Toxic Work Environment

When the day has finally come for you to escape a toxic work environment there are a few things to keep in mind! If your toxic boss is a problem on a regular day, they may act out when they find out you’re no longer at their disposal. So, stand your ground and make sure you don’t get sucked into another however-many years at this job just because they’re angry or hurt. Leaving a toxic work environment might be easier said than done, so here are some tips that will defs help!  

1. Come Prepared

Have your resignation letter printed and signed, with your last day clearly specified. And, just in case they ask, have your list of reasons for leaving written down or memorized. It will help to keep you level-headed (even if all you want to do is gesture around wildly and say “um, helloooo”). 

2. Say No

If they’re trying to convince you to stay, know that you can absolutely just say no.

3. Stay Calm

Use a calm tone to explain why you’re leaving. You never know who you might cross paths with in the future so try to maintain your composure (and reputation). Also, you might need a reference letter from the company in the future, so that’s another (very frustrating) reason to try to keep things civil. 

4. Don’t Do It Alone

If you’re uncomfortable or too nervous to talk to your boss alone, then ask a rep from Human Resources to sit in on your meeting and act as mediator. Or, if your boss loooooves to gaslight you, ask a trusted colleague to sit in. They don’t have to say a word, but it will be SO reinforcing to have a witness there to validate your feelings and experience afterwards. 

And, when it’s all said and done if anyone asks why you left just give them the generic “I was unhappy and leaving was the best decision for my health.” Simple and vague, but it gets that point across. 

We HOPE you have just read this article for funsies and didn’t actually need guidance for leaving a toxic work environment (because you LOVE your job!), but since that’s prob not the case we just want you to know…YOU ARE INTELLIGENT AND DESERVING OF A HAPPY WORKPLACE. We’re here for you, always!


Read More: Self-Sabotage: What Is It & How Do We Stop Doing It?, 6 Ways To Take Care of Yourself While Working Night Shifts,