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11 Red Flags In An Unhealthy Work Environment

Do you experience unusual physical and emotional reactions related to your workplace? Are you constantly tired, stressed, and unable to disengage from work-related thoughts? Discover in this article the most common red flags in an unhealthy work environment to help you make informed decisions about your job and overall well-being.

red flags in an unhealthy work


After another exhausting day at work, you arrive home and, instead of feeling relaxed and ready for a well-deserved rest, an overwhelming sense of anxiety and persistent tension envelop your entire body.

Not everyone can leave work at the door, and even though you are in a familiar environment, you cannot turn your brain off from work-related issues.

Your mind refuses to stay still, and your thoughts seem to become even more intense as you review over and over again the events that happened during the day at work.

Although you are tired, worries take over and pull you deeper into a cycle of restless nights that keep you awake.

Sleep is the natural reset button, both physically and mentally, allowing your cells to regenerate, your muscles to heal, and your mind to find relief.

However, its deprivation leads to poor cognitive function and concentration and affects decision-making and overall well-being.

You feel exhausted physically and emotionally, and the thought that tomorrow, you have to return to the same work environment fills you with more anxiety and dread.

At the same time, your gut assesses the situation based on your inner feelings, emotions, and subconscious cues.

They guide your judgment and tell you that events should not unfold this way for you. It should align with your values, not against them.

Does this scenario sound familiar?

If yes, you must realize you are in a trap of a toxic work environment.

The first signals are already present through physical, emotional, and intuitive responses. However, I will discuss in this article several clues that indicate an unhealthy workplace, from negative behaviors to harmful dynamics.



Are you part of a company where employees come and go frequently? Then, it is clear that something is wrong. A toxic work environment often leads to a high turnover rate and vice-versa.

People tend to leave the workplace because of poor leadership and management, lack of direction, inadequate compensation, or they feel undervalued, overworked, or unappreciated.

This constant turnover of employees creates a negative cycle. The team is permanent without stable staff, which leads to the overloading of existing employees. New employees, more or less experienced, can hinder productivity and workflow.

When some team members perform tasks smoothly, clockwise, and others in the opposite direction, there is evident a discrepancy in their performance.

Thus, feelings of frustration and mistrust, constant fatigue, and lack of motivation set in, making any remaining employees question their existence in the company.


Each job involves a certain percentage of stress, but if you are, day by day, under constant and excessive pressure and stress, unrealistic work expectations, or lack of support, all these lead to a struggle with mental and physical health.

Not only are you prone to anxiety and frustrations, but it also leads to unpleasant physical sensations such as muscle tightness, joint pain, and migraines.

When left uncontrolled, they can lead to chronic pain and affect your overall well-being and quality of life. Prolonged exposure to such stress-inducing factors can weaken the immune system, making you susceptible to various illnesses.


It is a red flag you cannot ignore when the line between work and personal life becomes increasingly invisible.

The constant need to work long hours or an irregular shift schedule involves sacrificing personal time for work.

It creates a work-life imbalance that can lead to exhaustion, chronic stress, and burnout, negatively affecting overall well-being and family relationships.

In most jobs, the time spent with colleagues exceeds the moment spent with loved ones. Over time, this leads to distance, lack of effective communication, and total disconnection.

If this is your case, remember that you do not live to work; you work to live!


Communication is the most vital asset in any professional or work-related relationship. Usually, in a toxic work environment, communication is poor.

Lack of open, transparent, and coherent information between colleagues and even with management can lead to significant challenges.

The information held and not shared on time or the lack of feedback and constructive criticism are conducive to confusion, misunderstandings, frustration, and distrust.

All these aspects do not keep the team together and do not create a flow in the work process.


When the work team has toxic people, it is inevitable not to create a hostile and unhealthy work environment. They can display harmful behaviors and attitudes, such as negativity, complaints, manipulation, gossip, bullying, discrimination, or harassment.

They harm morale, collaboration, team performance, and overall dynamics by engaging in passive-aggressive communication, creating stress and tension among workers, and refusing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

Their presence drains the energy and enthusiasm of other team members, creating a sense of unease and discomfort.


What is a Toxic Person – Identify 9 Typologies and Cope with Their Toxicity

7 Practical Techniques for Dealing with Toxic People


Do you constantly feel like someone is breathing down your neck or watching you from afar, checking every move you make?

Excessive control from the manager and even colleagues can be suffocating and demoralizing.

When you do not have the autonomy to do the job effectively, and every decision and move is under the question marks, it sets back your self-confidence, makes you doubt your self-worth, lowers your productivity, and limits your creativity.


How to Build Self-Confidence with 10 Simple Tips


In a fear-based work environment, employees avoid voicing their opinions, taking risks, making mistakes, or sharing work-related issues with management.

They prefer to focus on self-preservation to avoid negative consequences rather than being open and bringing unique personal perspectives and ideas to the work process.

The lack of psychological security among employees only limits creativity, innovation, and the freedom to experience new things. It also hinders collaboration and the ability of the team to adapt and develop.

When open communication is encouraged, diverse viewpoints are valued, and mistakes are considered essential learning opportunities for cultivating a healthy and productive team environment.


Each new job comes with the excitement of a new beginning and the hope of personal and professional growth.

A healthy work environment encourages professional development by providing employees with the resources to develop their knowledge and skills. Instead, in a toxic work environment, growth opportunities are limited.

Not all employees want a linear, fading job, stable in their comfort zone and in the same position for a long time. Many prefer upward mobility with room for improvement, learning, and advancement.

But when no avenues for growth are available, and their hard work and achievements go unnoticed or unappreciated, feelings of stagnation and frustration emerge, with the desire to cut their losses.


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In general, little competition is healthy because it drives individuals to excel. But a toxic work environment encourages cutthroat, unhealthy competition, pitting employees against each other.

This scenario happens most commonly in sales, where employees are considered just numbers.

Teamwork breakdown, backstabbing, and gossip occur when team members become more focused on outshining each other than collaborating.

An unhealthy competition that favors personal gain over collaboration and teamwork creates frequent conflict and a general atmosphere of suspicion, blame, and mistrust.

Building a culture of trust and collaboration should be a priority for any company!


In a work environment, favoritism, bias, unfair assignments, or rewards may occur.

Giving preferential treatment or opportunities to specific individuals based on personal connections rather than merit fosters frustration and a sense of injustice and demoralization for other workers on the team.

This culture of preferential treatment undermines trust and creates a breeding ground for resentment and division.


Do you work late nights every night?

Do you work weekends, holidays, and extra hours without or without fair compensation?

Do you feel overworked due to a lack of staff because the company faces a High Turnover Rate?

Are you assailed by demands and responsibilities that do not fall under the scope of your core duties and expertise?

These are just a few situations where the company takes advantage of you. If you consistently face these circumstances, it might be time to evaluate whether your current job fits you.


Have you experienced any of the red flags mentioned above?

How have they impacted your mental and emotional well-being?

Reflect on your current work environment and assess whether toxic signs are present. Recognizing these signs is crucial because you can identify and address the issues that contribute to toxicity.

Your career journey should be a fulfilling one. But, if that is not the case, explore opportunities elsewhere that align better with your values and professional growth.

Till next time…

Never compromise your mental and emotional health for the sake of a job!

Diana O. Debreczeni

Founder of Dare & Be.


Dare and Be Founder
Spread the Word to the World!

18 thoughts on “11 Red Flags In An Unhealthy Work Environment”

  1. This article is an eye-opener, Diana! I’ve definitely felt some of these red flags in my workplace, especially the lack of work-life balance and high stress levels. It’s reassuring to know that these feelings might not just be in my head and could be indicative of an unhealthy work environment.

    One question that comes to mind is, do you have any advice for dealing with these red flags if you can’t immediately leave the toxic work environment? Many of us might find ourselves in situations where leaving isn’t an immediate option, but we still want to improve our well-being.

    Thank again for a very helpful post.

  2. I’ve had a couple of careers in my 50-something years. As a junior member of my first team at work, lacking in confidence, I seemed to be the butt of one particular individual’s insecurities. It’s only now, years later, that I can see that he was ill-suited to the management role that he had been forced into with my addition to the team. All of a sudden he had someone that he needed to direct in tasks that he instinctively knew how to do himself, but could not explain to me.

    He was never obnoxious in a spiteful way, but lacking the interpersonal skills required to be a manager, he did come across as being rude and abrupt. I’d say nowadays with no hierarchical relationship between us that he’s a guy who I get on with pretty well.

    Then in the second part of my working life, I moved into a more feminine working environment. This too was stressful, but in a different way. It certainly wasn’t as supportive as one might expect. It wasn’t boys being boys but cliques of women falling out with each other. Managers seemed incapable of communicating without resorting to putting people down, if only with ill-judged or inappropriate humour. I no longer work there 😉

  3. The written content is very informative yet not too much to take in at one time.  Also, yes, I’ve worked for a place like that before and it’s not fun and anybody that has knows exactly what you’re talking about. The only thing that I didn’t notice was the subject of pay rates which could be related to the factors wrote about. It certainly affects the ability to deal with the many factors outlined.

  4. What a great and validating article!  Thank you for writing it.

    I have experienced all of these, to one degree or another.  And I could never stand any of it.  People have been telling me all my life that I’m either “too sensitive” or “too intense.”  Because, apparently, not being willing or able to live out a lie for years and years at a time is “not normal.”  

    Of all the red flags you listed, there are two that have been the biggest banes of my existence.  The absence of recognition and preferential treatment.  They seem to go together.  At least for me.

    I’ve always been a very focussed and intense self directed learner.  And, as a result, I have accumulated a lot of knowledge.  Most things, I’ve found, are simply variations of other things, and nothing is ever that difficult to figure out.  But my learning, of course, is not accredited, so nobody ever takes it seriously.  Barely literate “bosses” with their little BA degrees have repeatedly looked down on me as if I’m too stupid to live.  Even when I’m inevitably proven right.  Nobody remembers how I warned against whatever-it-was, 3 months ago.  And preferential treatment, fits hand and glove into this dynamic.  People reward their own kind.

    Now that I’m old, and have been focussing my Learning Beam onto my own self, in order to figure out and fix this, I finally understand.  It’s just the constant re-creation of my own toxic family.  My family treated my feelings as irrelevant, at best, and a form of insanity at the worst.  My mother abandoned us when I was 5 and I was not allowed to grieve.  My father couldn’t handle it, so any mention of her became taboo.  I cried myself to sleep, in secret, for YEARS.  

    Obviously, this is the source.  Everything in my life has followed this pattern, not just jobs.  But “friends,” too.  My own kids, even.  For daring to want to recover from it.  But once I finally started to bring up and see the sublimated dynamics, so well-hidden by endless layers of logical rationales, I could see the parallels.  I’d been re-creating my family dynamics.   And seeing it is changing it.  Slowly teasing the complex apart, one lie at a time.  

    I’m not done, yet.  Who knows if I ever will be.  But I have made so much progress.  

    Every time I come across something like what you’ve written here, I feel like it helped me ascend one more rung on my ladder of recovery. 

    So, thank you, so much, for what you are doing.



    1. Hello Anna,

      I appreciate your honesty and vulnerability in your comment. I agree with you. It is frustrating to see that you are unappreciated or undervalued because the formal credentials weigh much more than the practical experience.

      I am also a self-directed learner. The base of my professional career is passion, self-study, and practical experience, which I later strengthened with formal certifications for legal practice.

      In your case, you have already formed a solid foundation, so it would be much easier for you to complete the last steps towards a formal accreditation in the desired field.

      It is never too late to make changes or take a different path.

      Your ability to reflect on your own experiences to see the patterns that have shaped your life involves incredible courage.

      However, your self-discovery and self-acceptance led to an ascending process toward recovery with the incredible final reward of healing.

      Despite all the adversities that life threw at you, you continued to fight on the barricades, which shows your resilience. This only makes me admire you even more.

      Anna, thank you very much for your trust, and I wish you all the best in your personal and professional endeavors. You have all my support in the future, it’s just enough to give me a sign.

  5. Hi Diana! 

    This was an interesting article and very informative. I think everyone in the working world will sooner or later experience a toxic environment with co-workers. I feel a lot of people who are stuck in their way of thinking allow this kind of environment to happen because they are not trying to be better bosses or co-workers in their everyday life. This article is something everyone in the workforce should read and follow.

    1. Hello Kimberly,

      I like your statement, and I agree with it. Indeed, both employees and management create a toxic work environment.

      A valuable company culture is to take care of employees so that, in return, they take care of the business. When the employees are satisfied and come to work with pleasure, this aspect can be seen in their productivity, the harmony they create, as well as the time they spend in the company as employees. All these things make a huge difference.

      But, this things does not happen when employees are seen only as a labor force.

      Of course, some employees do not fit into the team and do the job only for financial gain. Implicitly, they contribute to a toxicity factor.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Kimberly, and you are more than welcome to come back for more updates.

  6. What an interesting article.You seem to have experienced all the factors that I experienced at one of the worst employment places ever. It seems to have had all of the toxic features you describe, essentially from the people who worked there , since the building and furniture are inanimate objects. I was glad to leave that environment and since then have developed my own business and am creating a much more positive culture for my company, avoiding all of the toxic features you describe.

  7. Hello Diana,

    This is an insightful and detailed article, a must-read for anyone striving to have a positive and productive workplace, as it empowers individuals to prioritize their well-being and professional growth. By identifying these red flags, readers gain valuable awareness to recognize and address potential challenges. Well done! Keep up the good work.


    1. Hi Brian,

      Thank you for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. Also, your words of encouragement are greatly appreciated and encourage me even more to create content with a positive impact on my readers. If you have other topics you’d like to see covered, please feel free to share.

  8. Hello Diana,

    I can deeply relate to the feelings described when I’m in a negative work environment. I’ve gone through similar situations in previous jobs I once had. 

    It’s so crucial for us to recognize these red flags. Out of curiosity, what are your best suggestions on how to approach management when we notice these signs?

    Thank you for sharing these insights.

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thank you for your response. Great question, by the way. There are a few things to keep in mind when you want to discuss these signs with management.

      Find a quiet place where you can have an open discussion, and very importantly, choose a convenient time when the manager is available without interruptions.

      Be prepared to have concrete examples highlighting the situations in which these red flags appear. Try to be clear in your statements to provide a better understanding of the issues. You can also use the “I” statements to highlight how these signs affect you personally.

      Use two-way dialogue to get the manager’s perspective. Sometimes, the manager isn’t aware of those things, or worse, there are cases when he knows about them and does nothing to change them. In this second case, you know at least where you stand.

      But if the manager isn’t aware of this situation, you offer possible solutions to change and improve the work environment. After a while, if the discussion with the manager doesn’t lead to any improvement progress, at least you know what decision to make to be in your favor.

  9. Hello Diana, your article described all the reasons why I choose the solopreneur journey. Working in a toxic environment is a sacrifice that many have to go through at the moment. If someone is under any of the 11 reds flags you mention above why fight to stay there? If you can’t move up even with good performance on your part, if your value is not being recognized there are only two options: 1) look for another workplace or 2) work for yourself. Diana, you hit the nail right on the head when you said that your career should be a fulfilling journey with of course professional growth along the way.

    1. Hi Eric,

      Thank you very much for your feedback. I can say I’m with you on this one. That’s why in 2016 I also became a solopreneur with an offline business, and later in 2019, I created an online one. So, cheers to our solopreneur success, and why not entrepreneur in the future.

  10. Its important to have a good working environment or we can not work at our optimal level. These red flags are all too common in work places. Is there any way to avoid them? How do we know if the place we are applying to is a toxic environment so that we can avoid working there altogether?

    1. Hello Marlinda,

      Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate your input in which you have summarized some great questions. So, I will give you some recommendations and points of reference to avoid such toxic work environments.

      Research is always a strong starting point.  I recommend to do your own research to gather insights into the company’s reputation, culture, and management. If the company does not prioritize values like respect, integrity, and employee growth and development is more unlikely to provide a positive environment.

      Every interview is a two-way information-gathering process: for the employee and the employer. During the interview, ask questions about team dynamics, management style, and company’s policies, and pay attention to how the answers are communicated.

      If the answers are not consistent, transparent, and open dialogue, then something is not right. You can gain some knowledge of body language to observe during the interview if the interviewer’s answers match their body language.

       And last but not least, trust your instinct. If you get the feeling that something is off during the interview, it could be a sign to reconsider that job.

  11. Hey Diana,

    I think that you’ve addressed something that everyone can relate to in one way or another, as we’ve all been there, in an environment that ultimately isn’t very good for our mental and or emotional well-being.

    You’ve provided so much in-depth detail into the various triggers or red flags that so often we overlook, or just accept.

    Your 11 points help to identify if we are facing any or all of these potentially toxic situations.

    Detailed and very useful article.

    Many thanks

    Cherie :o) 

    1. Hi Cherie, 

      Thank you for taking the time to engage with my article. Indeed, at some point, each of us has faced a toxic work environment, and recognizing the warning signs can make a significant difference to both our careers and our overall well-being.

      Although, in many cases, these red flags are often overlooked or even accepted for various reasons: financial commitments, limited job opportunities in a specific field, fear of confrontation, expecting a career advancement, or the development of a strong emotional attachment, etc. In such cases, employees endure toxicity for the sake of stability and false comfort.

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