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Yimika Adesola: How Toxic is Your Workplace?



Not everybody wakes up on Monday morning and whistles their way into the office. Not everyone is thoroughly excited or passionate about their job. However, there is a marked difference between routine workplace difficulties and a working environment that strains you to the point of illness.

When you first start a job, it might be hard to see the red flags because you’re so excited and maybe even feel privileged to be at that workplace. But with time, you may begin to see more clearly and realize that things aren’t what they seemed from the outside. These environments usually tend to get worse the longer you stay.

One or more of these factors may mean that you are working in the land of toxicity.

Your boss has poor leadership skills
Almost every time, toxic work environments are derived from how the employers treat their employees. Statistics show that the major reason employees leave a place of work is because of a poor relationship with a boss.

Examples of poor leadership traits could be bullying and favouritism, narcissism, criticism, complaining, impatience or badmouthing.

Management bullies or tolerates bullying
Bullying can take various forms; you might be constantly talked down at (even jokingly), or out rightly screamed at. This is one of the most glaring signs that you work in a toxic environment

Where management itself does not engage in bullying, it could tolerate or even encourage it in the organization. If the people who constantly get praise or promotion are the people who are ruthless and cruel, then you work in an establishment that encourages bullying.

Also, if bullying is brought to the attention of management and nothing is done about it, that is a toxic workplace. Action to correct bullying should go beyond meetings and admonition; in an organization that cares about the wellbeing of its people, constant culprits should be punished, and seen to have been punished. Bullying should (ideally) carry the same consequence that insubordination does.

No respect for work/life balance
In certain line of work, you might be required to work lengthy hours; this is understandable. However, there are ways that an organization can alleviate the stress that may come with a time-demanding job and demonstrate that it respects your time and your personal life.

Are you required to sit around in the office till late just because your boss is still around? Do you spend minutes to hours a day simply waiting to see ‘oga’?

How does organization treat you when you are working till late? Is provision made for you to get home safely? Does anyone even care to ask how you will be getting home?
Loss of human touch

Generally look out for the absence of human touch; that feeling that employees are dispensable objects. For instance, note how your boss reacts when you call in sick. A poor leader may complain about the work that may need to be done in your absence.

You are being micromanaged
This may seem inconsequential at first but can really contribute to an employee’s overall dissatisfaction in the long run.

If your boss is constantly looking over your shoulder while you’re working or constantly calling to check on the progress of a task, this could quickly become very overwhelming. A good leader should be able to trust you to do the job you were hired to do.

All sticks no carrots
A good work environment should encourage employees by publicly recognizing hard work. If you work in an office where the only time you receive feedback on your work is when you have done something wrong, this can take its toll on your confidence and security as a whole.

Also, if you work in an environment where it is normal for management to publicly scold employees, it may mean that there is little or no respect for employees as individuals.

Your boss plays favourites
It may be natural to have a favourite among a group of people, but if the team can name a particular person as the favourite, because of clear benefits, then there is a problem.

Management encourages unhealthy competition
While some competition in the workplace is a great idea, your teammate should not feel like a battlefield opponent.

A good leader also should not constantly compare you with a colleague and undermine your abilities, especially in front of your colleagues.

What happens when you speak up
In an organization that truly seeks advancement, the opinion and ideas of employees should be golden. You should not be ignored, or worse, shut down, when you tactfully and respectfully present your views to your boss.

If this happens, it shows that the organization is merely interested in getting the work done and nothing else.

You begin to question your worth
No employer should ever make you feel like you’re not good enough for the role you are in, especially if you can honestly say you are working as hard as you can. Many times, bosses are just not good leaders and you should try not to take it personally and let it affect the way you view yourself.

Resist the feeling of anxiety or worry that everything you are doing is wrong. Never let it get to that point.

If after reading this, you sense that you work in a toxic work environment, it is because you probably do. What you do with this information is entirely up to you and would differ based on personal circumstances, but remember that your gut and your instinct exist for a reason.

Photo Credit: © Denisismagilov |

Yimika Adesola is a corporate lawyer with a diploma in Human Resource Management. She runs a career center, Legally Engaged (available at, via which she offers direction to students and young professionals by providing them with the information they need to launch successful careers and make better career decisions.  Website: LinkedIn:


  1. Anon

    January 23, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    I was bullied a lot from the staff to my manager . I served in the company ; I will warm her food for her! Bring water for her every morning . Make tea for the staff. She was the best in the company apparently , everyone liked her but God knows I despised her . I was always looked down and talked down . I hated every minute I spent there . I was offered a position there but turned it down without thinking .
    Even they don’t acknowledge my hard work . I was serving and I worked round the clock . Never called in sick for that one year I used there . Even when they are doing training for their staff , I was excluded .
    Very shitty place .

  2. Ebi Hanson

    January 23, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Thank you so much for this, I am happily resigning from my work. At a point, I felt suicidal. Yes it got to that point but I am happy and relieved that I am leaving such an environment. Thank God

    • N

      February 4, 2018 at 11:39 am

      Wish I had the guts to…I’ve been depressed and Suicidal 2 years in a row now…

  3. Ocean Beauty

    January 23, 2018 at 2:12 pm

    Welcome to my world. And to think it’s a multinational by NAME alone. Nothing else makes sense. Attitude stinks. No growth, no personal development and no policy.
    Resignation submitted. Time for plan B.

  4. Weather

    January 23, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    I feel every one of the points you raised at my current workplace. I am resigning in a few days and I totally feel at peace with it. The Organisation has been stunting my growth for a long time now. I will rather hustle for new opportunities than be stuck in a place that tries to diminish my self-worth.

  5. Chic

    January 23, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    7 of the listed above applies to my work place. Can’t say much. I’m just looking out for opportunities now. Hopefully i get a good one before the end of this quarter.

  6. Pretty

    January 23, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    R u referring to the big 4 audit firms,?

    • ozyy

      January 23, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      I haven’t read the article fully but the big 4 came to my mind. was there and i ran away for my life, well being and mental health.

  7. abby

    January 23, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    SMH this is totally my work place! constantly bullying which is highly tolerated by the management, my boss will gladly speak bad of me behind, uses derogatory terms, constantly finding faults! someone did decide to “speak up” once the result? he was asked to quietly resign. I am looking seriously for the nearest exit.

  8. kezhia

    January 23, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    I quit my job December last year, The people were awful, one particular woman had it in for me. I held my tongue anytime I was upset or spoken to disrespectfully (I advise no one to do this, stand your ground from the start). I was made to feel I wasn’t good enough for the role, constant questioning. (it didn’t help that the previous occupier of the job role was made redundant and a friend of the woman that didn’t like me).

    I questioned my worth all the time, cried a few times, no support (the manager had no leadership skill whatsoever, she ‘s a lovely woman but leadership skills sucked). It was just too overwhelming, so I quit.

    I don’t regret quitting because my mental health needs to come first. I know me and I know what I can handle so working in a toxic environment and dealing with anxiety is not the best combination. I benefited financially from the job, I managed to save a lot of money to pursue a better job, and also gained more experience for my CV.

    It sucks but so is life, on to the next one.

  9. M

    January 23, 2018 at 4:45 pm

    I experienced all these except one or two at my former place of work. Gosh I can feel the emotions right now! What a terrible place to be, coupled with constant gossip, backstabbing & jealousy from coworkers. My direct boss was even diabolic! He would come to work early to pour substances all over the office. I spent 4 years in that hell hole but finally left after aggressively saving. (did I mention that the pay was crap? Really crappie o)
    I started a small business with my savings. Many people scoffed at my area of interest and looked down on it. But I trusted my heart. Today God has blessed this business of mine! I work much less hours, I am happily doing what I love and so it doesn’t even feel like work. Plus I am making about same as my last salary with very minimal effort. This is a business of a few months with very little marketing effort, Mostly referrals from those who were happy with my work. I am now even more confident of the future.
    I pray that anyone in toxic environments find the courage and all it takes to leave and do better for themselves. These kind of places will leave u emotionally, psychologically and physically drained.

  10. Abisola

    January 23, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Sounds like EbonyLife and another company I know

  11. Anny

    January 23, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    Thank yo so much for this write up… I must say ..I AM IN A TOXIC WORK ENVIRONMENT!!..
    Sincerely since i started my present job, i feel so frustrated. I cry almost every other day in my closet. I work with fear.. God help me

  12. Trinitee

    January 24, 2018 at 2:19 am

    Worked in one of the most TOXIC environments in Lagos, a public relations agency. Thank you for a quick escape!

    • Let's talk about advertising

      January 24, 2018 at 8:01 pm

      Nne, you see the marketing communications world; advertising, PR and all are in a class of their own. Add the above to constant sexual harassment. Sexual innuendos and jokes are the order of the day. They see indiscipline as synonymous with being creative. I started my career in the biggest advertising agency and I’m now a marketing manager. My friend that left one of the big 4s had to comment on how exhausting our industry is just after a few days of dealing with them. That industry is in a class of its own. Think mean girls in high school only this time, you’re a mean girl yourself and being treated meanly too

  13. A Nigerian Immigrant in Ontario

    January 24, 2018 at 5:31 am

    Please all of you that resigned, what was your plan b or how did you go about moving ahead?

    I’m in a similar situation but this is my first job and it was so hard for me to get this job, that is why I’m a bit scared of leaving. When I complain, people say I’m really lucky to have a good Job in Canada, but I nearly died last summer from severe anxiety attacks (I’m talking heart palpitations, dizziness, blurred vision, inability to think well and sleepless nights). The clinic became my second home.

    my boss is extremely insecure, a depressed and narcissistic individual, so he takes it out on us, me in particular (because I work really hard, external clients love working with me and I usually make peoples work life easier (he really really hates this and I guess he doesn’t understand why I’m so smart because I’m black, most Canadians don’t know that Nigerians are very intelligent people unlike the US. I guess he probably wouldn’t have employed me if he knew how smart I was, i sometimes think he had ulterior motives when he employed me, but my Margaret Thatcher attitude wouldn’t let him try that rubbish with me..Sometimes I even act like I’m dumb or don’t get something to massage his ego and make him feel better, but for where. Nothing seems to work with him.

    His superior is even worse (he is a bully and sarcastically insults people in their presence when they make a mistake, completely ignoring all they’ve previously done).

    The sad part is, I know my boss is daft and I know he doesn’t know what he’s doing, I have a feeling that he is aware I know this.

    I really want to leave? But I’m really good at my job, and biotech jobs are so hard to get because we are obviously just emerging and also doing innovative work that hasn’t been done before in the world and please don’t tell me to come back home, because I don’t have a lot of experience and when it comes to biotech the entire African continent is trailing way behind…..Writer, BN, people, I need your advice on what to do and how to move forward.

    • BBB

      January 24, 2018 at 11:22 am

      My Darling you just have to look hard for another job either in Canada, America or Europe (I don’t know alot about your sector but i’m sure it’s not even a thought in Nigeria”
      (THE ONLY OTHR WOMEN IN THE COMPANY) in the end it boiled down to my supervisor feling inferior because I was smart and well spoken, my unit had didn’t like that I didn’t kiss her ass or take her advice to wear make-up and heels. At the point when I started looking for oppurtunities, I was ready to accept an unpaid internship anywhere in the field I wanted and ended up getting a super job in the sector. My male bosses that saw me go through everything were sad to see me leave but honestly I just had to get out. Money is great, but it can’t buy you peace of mind or job satisfaction. If you are of any faith I’d tell you to trust in God completly and step out in faith.

    • YA

      January 24, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      I read your post and whilst I don’t mean to belittle your struggles, something jumped out at me – “…I know my boss is daft…I have a feeling that he is aware I know this.”

      I hope it’s not that you communicate (expressly or subtly) to your boss that you think he is daft or incapable of doing his job. If you do, and as you say he knows this, then maybe this influences his behavior towards you?

      Please take time to look inwards because it sounds like you otherwise have a good gig. You may actually be smarter than him, but it does you absolutely no good to say/show this. Humility and tact will take you places than being smart alone cannot.


    • Ozyy

      January 25, 2018 at 9:24 am

      @ YA. Thank you for your words of wisdom. Humility and tactfulness is very important.

      @Nigerian immigrant. Keep your head high. Be hopeful. if the situation persists, work towards a timeline. For me, I was able to resign coz i lived with my parents; so food and accommodation was covered and in 3 months, GOD gave me another job. As the writer of the article said, know your circumstances and act around that but believe GOD and watch things happen in your favour. Cheers

  14. Tosin

    January 24, 2018 at 5:36 am

    How can we help?

  15. S!

    January 24, 2018 at 10:41 am

    I will print this article and slip it under my annoying bosses door.
    Always favouring 1 lazy guy who does eye service & no work and belittles every other persons effort.
    Thank God the other 2 bosses are Angels!!!

  16. Tina

    January 24, 2018 at 11:44 am

    My current state now, please help me am losing my mind, the most painful part of my story is that the person I brought into the organisation is aiding in ploting against me, even the MD, my of fence, diligently doing my work, I don’t gossip, am a christian, I refuse to go diabolic, like the lady that is the main agent of the plot, please help me I am a dare need of another job, feel like resigning this moment , crying presenting, please i can be reach on [email protected], please save a sister…

  17. zelda

    January 24, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    I thought i am the only one that went through all of these,to think a lot of people have similar experiences.
    Thank God i summoned courage and resigned,fortunately for me ,God opened a better door and i got another job. Kai, i went to hell n back in my former work place..

  18. ash

    January 24, 2018 at 2:10 pm

    I am facing similar situation in a Federal government establishment. The Boss knows next to nothing…We are like 7 in the office and we sit down all day doing nothing and at the end of the month we get paid! I am not happy because I am wasting away and all I learnt at school is fading fast.The Boss does all the work and refused to delegate the job even if he does, he chooses the person from his home town to do it….We are all frustrated! I am thinking of resigning by the first quarter of the month and go join my hubby in yankee!!!!

    • SS

      January 24, 2018 at 9:02 pm

      what are you waiting for ?

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