How to identify toxic work environment?

Ishan Liyanage
2 min readJul 3, 2022

Toxic work environment will kill your ability, quality and energy. Are you really in a toxic work environment? Here are few points from my view on how to identify them.

Can you speak up and give feedback?

One of the most important sign that your workplace is toxic is that when you speak up and feedback, your managers and co-workers do not listen or they pretend that they are listening. If you feedback is not being treated as valuable meaning a sign that management do not prioritise the people. If team or leaders do not value their co-workers input or feedback will allow toxic environment to grow.

Lack of professionalism

If your environment often feels like the talking gossip (and bullying) like in high school than a professional work place, then it is a toxic behavior. These behaviours are immature and should not be there in a professional work environment.

Lack of accountability

Are you constantly talking about team values or best practices? Or giving feedback to team members constructively so they can improve? If the answer is NO, then it is a sign of toxic culture. We should always discuss team values and work towards best practices. We should own (take ownership) and help each other.

Unfair policies and favoritism

Sometimes there can be unfair policies that can not justify by any means they can apply selectively to certain team members. If we do not see same standard and some members exercise special privileges will end up with toxic environment.

Lack of transparency

Communication and honesty are core for any workplace. This will maintain the mutual trust. If we are open and honest, it will give us room to grow and get valuable feedback. Lack of such quality will lead to toxic culture.


Talk to your boss first. Then see the progress and if you do not see a progress or positive out come, then better to work with an exit plan. Do not take emotional decisions, this might put you in even worse situation. Plan ahead, secure a new job that you feel better. Have sufficient saving in hand to survive in worst situation.

Sometimes such exit plans will take months or may be years, but it is very important to work out a plan to get better work environment. This will help your mental and emotional health in big way.

Ishan Liyanage

Passionate Technical Lead, Senior Software Developer and free and open source software advocate. Based in Singapore.