Dealing with a toxic workplace: Expert advice

A toxic workplace culture can be hugely disruptive for your career path. You may suffer from harassment, bullying or gaslighting from managers and colleagues, a stressful and excessive workload, or unrealistic expectations about unpaid overtime and availability during your personal hours. 

Leaving a toxic workplace can feel impossible, but it's not. Getting out is often the best option, especially if the toxicity is institutional, rather than due to a single manager or senior executive. 

In this guide we'll look at some of the signs of a toxic workplace, before moving on to the ways of surviving a toxic workplace and, ultimately, how to leave a job if the company culture has become unbearable. 

Signs of a toxic workplace  

First of all, what is the definition of a toxic workplace? You might define toxic workplace conditions as coming from higher in the company hierarchy, physical conditions like the state of your premises and equipment, or changing market conditions that make your job untenable. Ultimately though, the signs of a toxic workplace often come from within.

Common signs of toxic workplaces include:

  • Employees feeling consistently unhappy, stressed and overwhelmed
  • Employees working much longer hours than their employment contract said would be necessary
  • Teams filled with toxic employees who facilitate office gossip and bad behavior
  • Poor communication and poor leadership coming from 'higher ups'
  • Workers suffering from a lack of sleep due to the amount of work they have on their plate

Whatever it might be, a toxic work environment can not only cause mental wellbeing issues, but also start to affect your physical health, your personal life and your overall worklife balance.

Toxic workplace culture can be any of the above, combined with a general lack of support. Everybody feels stressed sometimes in a busy workplace, but toxic workplace conditions arise when you feel like nobody is there to listen to your concerns or to help you manage with a temporary excess workload. 

In the most extreme circumstances, these conditions are not temporary, but become a long-term feature of your job. That's when you need to go into survival mode, to protect your mental health against unachievable expectations, and to start planning your exit so you have somewhere else to go. 

Surviving a toxic workplace  

Surviving a toxic workplace depends on the exact conditions you are facing. In some cases, you may feel completely alone, whereas at other times you might be working alongside colleagues who are feeling the same pressures as you. 

Here are some of our top tips to surviving in a toxic work environment and what you can do it improve this and help transform your office in a healthy workplace.

Finding allies  

Your closest workplace allies are likely to emerge over time quite naturally. Listen to what people are saying around you and try to offer some sympathy to anyone who is also feeling under pressure.

A problem shared is a problem halved, and it's good to have work friends in your corner if you need help with leaving a toxic work environment later down the line. 

Dealing with the job 

In the short term, you're going to have to deal with the job at hand. Raise any legitimate concerns with your line manager - and if you feel like they don't listen or take you seriously, speak to a more senior management or the HR department. They'll be a great mediator and help give you more practical solutions on how to resolve any issues or toxic behaviours you might be experiencing.

It's in your employer's best interests to ensure you can actually do your job, so if it's a lack of tools or time, they might offer some assistance to help you get everything done. 

Dealing with these early warning signs of toxicity should be a company’s top priority, as if these problems escalate and end up effecting more and more of their employees, they could have serious disruptions with poor morale inevitably leading to high staff turnover.

Planning your exit 

If the toxicity is ingrained into the company culture, then it's probably time to think about moving on. Leaving a toxic workplace is the fastest way to put a stop to the stress and pressure, and walking out on your last day can feel hugely satisfying.

If you have a good amount of annual leave entitlement still to use up, you might even be able to stop working before the end of your notice period, if your employer agrees to count the remaining days as holiday time. 

Leaving your job may in fact be the best thing not only for your mental wellbeing, but also your career journey. If you want to find a new job that offers more growth opportunities, more flexibility and an even better work environment then check out our live job boards today.

Leaving a toxic workplace  

Leaving your job is the 'kill or cure' solution to negative workplace culture, so think carefully before you hand in your notice. You might want to speak to your manager about alternatives, such as taking some leave, transferring to a different office or working from home. 

If none of the available options sound like long-term solutions, then getting out might be best. There are steps you can take to do so without leaving yourself jobless, as well as to cope with workplace toxicity in the meantime. 


In the short term, leaving a toxic workplace can be as simple as taking a break and getting out of the building. Until you get alternative employment lined up elsewhere, this can give you much-needed respite from the toxic conditions inside. 

Find somewhere close to your workplace where you can go on breaks, whether that's an outdoor space with seating, or a favourite cafe or coffee shop. Try to make sure your colleagues - especially any toxic co-workers - don't frequent the same establishment, so you can clearly define some personal, non-work time. 

The same goes for your evenings and weekends, or any other out-of-work time. Unless you absolutely need to be available at all times, leave your work at the office. Use a different phone for personal contacts and let colleagues know that you'll catch up with any correspondence the next time you're in the office. 

Get out for good 

If you want to leave for good, then it's time to look at the job market. Depending on your skills and experience, you might be surprised by the diversity of vacancies available to you and the salaries on offer - especially if you've been trapped in a toxic job for quite some time. 

Again, annual leave entitlement can be incredibly useful here. Make sure you know how many days you have left and how much warning you need to give to take a day off. It's unprofessional to phone in sick in order to attend a job interview elsewhere, so try to resist the temptation to do so, even if you feel like you don't owe your toxic employer any professional courtesy. 

Instead, take the high ground. Work hard to improve your own career prospects - even training in additional skills if the jobs market demands it. An extremely toxic workplace can be the motivation you need to start the job search process, and your next job will likely be all the better for your efforts. 

What's next?

Knowing the signs of a toxic workplace and how to handle it will allow you to take your next step on your terms and in your time — so your next job will be one you truly enjoy.  

To take the next step towards landing your dream job, submit your CV today and one of our expert consultants will be in touch.

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