Psychologists reveal 5 subtle warning signs you're in a toxic workplace and exactly what to do about it before it ruins your personal life
Bullying is one of the most obvious signs you're in a toxic workplace, according to Robert Sutton, an organizational psychologist and author of "The Asshole Survival Guide." But there are other more subtle signs you're in a toxic workplace such as coworkers being afraid to speak up and appearing lethargic, Sutton said. Criticism and office gossip is another telltale sign, according to Paul White, psychologist and co-author of "Rising Above a Toxic Workplace." If you find yourself in a toxic workplace, be prepared to speak up for yourself, lean on your work friends, and if necessary, quit. Click here for more BI Prime content.
Bullying is one of the most obvious signs of a toxic workplace — and it's lot more common than most would expect. That's according to Robert Sutton, professor of management science at the Stanford University School of Engineering and author of "The Asshole Survival Guide," and "Good Boss, Bad Boss." Nearly one out of every five US workers has experienced or is currently experiencing workplace bullying, according to a 2017 survey of more than 1,000 Americans by the Workplace Bullying Institute, an education and research organization on office abuse. But what are the other, more subtle indicators your workplace is awash in unfair practices and bad, unproductive, and perhaps even dangerous behavior? Here's what the experts said. 1. People at work don't speak up. One of the telltale signs that an office is toxic is how much, or how little, people talk in meetings and in group settings, Sutton said. "When people with less power try to speak up, they get shut down," he told Business Insider. "There's sort of a cold silence as leaders talk. That, to me, is a sign of fear." When you've got a few people in power who do all the talking, and everyone else sits idly by, it's an indication that not everyone's ideas are heard, and that there are stark differences in the way people at different levels are treated, he said. 2. Your coworkers lack energy. "People being worn out, that's a sign of a toxic workplace," Sutton said, who explained that lethargic coworkers could indicate neglect, employees being overworked, or that they have started thinking that contributing isn't worth the criticism they'll likely receive. 3. Employees don't stay at their jobs for very long. If you catch wind that a company has a high turnover rate, run the other way, Sutton said. "That's clear as day, when people start leaving," he said. 4. People criticize one another and there's a lot of gossiping. In a toxic workplace, communication isn't clear and open, which leads to misunderstandings and arguments, according to Paul White, a speaker, trainer, psychologist, and co-author of "Rising Above a Toxic Workplace." Leaders don't express appreciation and praise, and that negative attitude spreads throughout the company."Grumbling and complaining by employees is common — they can find something to complain about almost anytime. Then sarcasm and cynicism show up, which demonstrates a growing lack of trust of management and leadership, and turns into a low level seething disgruntlement," White previously wrote on Business Insider. 5. Your mood outside of work changes for no other apparent reason. Everyone has some stress that affects them at work, but if you find yourself lashing out at your partner, withdrawing from friends, having trouble sleeping, or gaining weight, it might be because you work in a bad environment, according to White. It's important to deal with the stress head on, as the effects can literally be life altering. "Emotionally, we become more discouraged, which can lead to depression. For some, they are more irritable, 'touchy,' and demonstrate problems managing their anger. Others experience anxiety and a general sense of dread when they think about work. These symptoms then can lead to increased use of alcohol, prescription drugs, and illegal substances," the psychologist wrote. If this sounds like your workplace, here's what you should do
Be prepared to speak up for yourself
If you sense you're working in a toxic office, be prepared to stand up for your own interests, Sutton said. If you feel comfortable, talk with your boss or HR department.
Avoid the bad apples.
"When you have a nasty boss, avoid them," Sutton said. "One person I know, where she works, she has the option to work from home a lot. So she and her colleagues will all sort of coordinate to find out what mood the boss is in and will work from home if the boss is in a bad mood."
Make friends at work.
Find a friend or two at work with whom you can vent or joke. "There's always stuff that you can't change, that you have to cope with. So to me, it's about supporting each other emotionally. It's joking about it. It's reminding each other this isn't going to last forever," Sutton said.
Get out of there.
If you find you're being passed up for opportunities, your voice isn't being heard, and you're constantly dreading work, start looking for another job and updating your résumé. Take a personal day to get a head start on your job search. When all else fails, especially if your physical and mental health is suffering, quit. "I'm a big believer of quitting," Sutton said. "Quitting is underrated." SEE ALSO: Not having a job can wreak havoc on your mental health. Here are 4 psychologist recommended strategies for dealing with 'unemployment depression.' Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Taylor Swift is the world's highest-paid celebrity. Here's how she makes and spends her $360 million.
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Amazon may have violated labor laws by firing worker involved in protest, New York attorney general says (AMZN)
Amazon may have violated New York's whistleblower law by firing a worker involved in a protest...Amazon may have violated New York's whistleblower law by firing a worker involved in a protest over workplace safety, the state's attorney general said in a letter to the company, NPR reported Monday. The AG's letter said its initial findings suggested Amazon fired the worker to "silence his complaints and send a threatening message to other employees that they should also keep quiet," according to NPR. The letter, which the attorney general's office confirmed to Business Insider, also said Amazon's safety measures implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic are "so inadequate" that they may violate federal and state workplace safety rules, too. Amazon told Business Insider in a statement that it didn't fire the worker. Amazon has come under fire from employees, lawmakers, and labor activists in recent weeks over working conditions at its warehouses and firing of workers who have spoken out about the issue. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. New York's attorney general said Amazon may have violated the state's whistleblower law last month by firing a Staten Island warehouse worker after he went on strike to protest the company's coronavirus-related safety practices, NPR reported Monday. In a letter sent to the company last week, the state's top lawyer, Letitia James, said her office's initial findings "raise serious concern that Amazon may have discharged [the employee] in order to silence his complaints and send a threatening message to other employees that they should also keep quiet about any health and safety concerns," according to NPR. The letter said James' office had learned that Amazon's termination of the employee, Christian Smalls, had left other workers afraid to speak up, adding that: "this is a particularly dangerous message to send during a pandemic, when chilling worker speech about health and safety practices could literally be a matter of life and death." A spokesperson for the New York attorney general's office declined to comment on the letter but confirmed its existence to Business Insider. "We did not terminate Mr. Smalls' employment for organizing a 15-person protest. We terminated his employment for putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of his employment," Amazon spokesperson Rachael Lighty told Business Insider in a statement. Lighty said Smalls violated the company's order for him to self-isolate at home for 14 days with pay because it determined he had come into contact with a coworker who tested positive for COVID-19. Amazon has fired at least six workers in recent weeks who were involved in protests criticizing the company's response to the coronavirus pandemic and is now facing multiple inquiries from the National Labor Relations Board about whether it unlawfully retaliated against workers who spoke out, as well as an investigation brought by New York City's human rights commissioner concerning the same issue. "We respect the rights of employees to protest and recognize their legal right to do so, but these rights do not provide blanket immunity against bad actions, particularly those that endanger the health, well-being or safety of their colleagues," Lighty said. Earlier in April, Amazon terminated two engineers based out of its Seattle headquarters who were involved in labor organizing efforts, though they were let go for violating internal communications policies, not for endangering coworkers' health or safety, the company told Business Insider at the time. James' office also expressed concern in the letter that the health and safety precautions Amazon has taken in response to the coronavirus pandemic have been "so inadequate that they may violate several provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act," in addition to other federal and state workplace safety guidelines, NPR reported. "Our top concern is ensuring the health and safety of our employees. We made over 150 process updates—from enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to new efforts like disinfectant spraying," Lighty said. Amazon has come under fire in recent weeks from workers who say, despite the measures Amazon says it has taken, the company hasn't done enough to protect them from COVID-19. People have tested positive for the disease in more than 70 of the company's facilities, according to The Washington Post. Lawmakers have taken aim at Amazon over its workplace conditions and response to workers speaking out. Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, and Rep. Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, called on the company in March to take additional steps to protect workers, while five Democratic senators pressed the company earlier in April for answers about its reasoning for firing Smalls. Amazon has been trying to balance the safety of its workers with increased demand for its services as coronavirus lockdowns worldwide fuel a surge in online shopping. The company said earlier in April it will add 75,000 more jobs after adding 100,000 roles in March. SEE ALSO: Amazon employees say they're scared to go to work, but they're not alone — here are 8 big companies facing worker criticism over their coronavirus safety response Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: We tested a machine that brews beer at the push of a button
How to work from home after spending your whole career in an office, according to tech workers who have gone fully-remote
Companies around the world are ordering their employees to work from home to slow the spread...Companies around the world are ordering their employees to work from home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Even before the outbreak, tech companies were increasingly building all-remote workforces. Working from home everyday comes with its own perks and challenges: Business Insider spoke with three people who have worked at fully-remote startups GitLab and Zapier to hear their best practices and tips. They advise setting boundaries for work-life balance, being transparent, and not blaming remote culture when something goes wrong. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. When Priyanka Sharma first started at Gitlab, she felt apprehensive about adjusting to life at fully-remote company. While it's becoming increasingly common for startups to build distributed, remote workforces, she worried that she would miss the social aspect of her past San Francisco Bay Area tech offices. But after nearly a year, she found herself "forever changed" to preferring remote work. Today, companies around the world are ordering their employees to work from home to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Before the outbreak, Business Insider asked Sharma and two other employees who work remotely every day to share their best tips and tricks. Their advice is more widely applicable now than ever: Work-life balance The line between work and life can get blurry once you no longer need to leave the house. It can be really easy to default to working in your pajamas all the time, Sharma said. But getting dressed before signing on — even if she isn't planning on leaving the house — helps get her into a work mindset. "Just that one thing has made my day so productive," she said. Read more: Startups are betting that letting people work from home, an RV, or a New Zealand mountaintop will lure top talent away from Silicon Valley Working remotely requires setting boundaries and respecting the ones that others set, too. Sharma realized that it would be easy for her to work all the time, since she no longer needed to schedule her day around arriving at and leaving an office. "You have to be conscious," Sharma said. "Especially if you like working, you could keep going forever." She's deliberate about starting her workday around 8 or 8:30 and ending around 5:30 or 6. She holds herself to that schedule by going to the gym or making plans to hang out with friends. While those options don't translate well to a time of social distancing, the idea still applies. Stick to self-imposed limits and respect your coworkers' preferences too. For example, one of Sharma's coworkers regularly puts "Time for my daughter" on her calendar. "It's blocked and I would never disrespect it," Sharma said. Communication and transparency When it comes to remote work, the more communication, the better, employees say. "Transparency is really key," Wade Foster, CEO and cofounder of all-remote startup Zapier, told Business Insider. Since knowledge transfer can't happen over a chat in the company kitchen, Zapier keeps detailed repositories of data that anyone can access anytime. "You want to be able to solve problems with the best information available," he said. "When you're asleep at night and someone needs to make a decision, they need to have access to that information." Job van der Voort, who left GitLab in January 2019 to start Remote.com, echoed that idea: Everything should be written down so that workflows are as transparent as possible. "It has to be searchable and easily accessible," van der Voort told Business Insider. "I like to call it asynchronous work." That structure means that remote workers need to be comfortable letting their colleagues make independent decisions, he added. "If you run this kind of company, you have to trust the people who work with you," van der Voort said. "If you work in an environment where you're not looking for consensus, you're able to work much faster." With that said, when people are online at the same time, they should make an effort to respond quickly, Sharma says. Since coworkers don't see each other in real life, they also have to find other ways to get to know each other on a personal level. Zapier managers hold one-on-one meetings with employees, which helps create personal connections, and the company encourages employees to get to know each other through fun, employee-wide surveys. At GitLab, there's a Slack bot that pairs random employees up for "coffee chats," Sharma says. "We have this culture of sharing ourselves: We're somehow able to do that even though we're remote," Sharma said. "I've had coffee chats where we talk about work or growing vegetables at high altitudes in Colorado. I get to hear about interests and activities that are really different." Don't blame remote The final tip is to have an open mind around distributed workforces. Whether a company is remote or not, challenges are inevitable, said Foster. He cautions executives against assuming that being remote is at the root of any problems that occur. "Founders often say, 'We missed a deadline — it must be because we're remote,'" Foster said. "When I talk to CEOs in offices, they comment, 'We missed a deadline' all the time, too. Missing deadlines is something everyone struggles with, whether you're in an office or not." If something goes wrong in an office, people don't blame the office. "If something goes wrong in a remote office, consider what's the real root of the issue instead of blaming 'remote' on why it didn't work out," Foster said. "If you go into it with an open mind, you're able to experiment and adjust."SEE ALSO: The CEO of $2.75 billion GitLab, which plans to go public this year, says his company faces less impact from coronavirus because its employees always work remotely Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Taylor Swift is the world's highest-paid celebrity. Here's how she makes and spends her $360 million.