Toxic workplaces: The signs you should take note of


About a week ago, the world went agog thanks to the uncovering of the toxic workplace culture existent in some supposedly amazing companies across different industries. It was surprising to discover that a lot of reputable organizations were “dragged” and people aired opinions for different reasons.

From bosses who bash to team leads who gaslight, listening to all those horrendous tales makes you wonder to what extent is emotional, mental and psychological torture displayed at different environment

The question is; if companies are toxic, why do people work there or stay back? Sometimes, it is because they do not have options, especially when you look at the disequilibrium between the supply of talents and the demand for talents. For these reasons, employers sometimes feel like the alpha and omega of an employee, and with the gaps in the labour law, the reactiveness of the National Industrial Court, the employee feels like a helpless pawn tossed across the chessboard of the labour market.

Below are a few tips for you to sport a toxic workplace, and pick a race.

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  1. No Offer Letter: This is 2022 and any organization that doesn’t extend you an offer letter before you resume is already showing you a red flag. Section seven of the Nigerian labour law talks about the fact that a written offer letter must be issued before three months of being employed. It’s archaic, I know but ensure you have an offer letter that states explicitly the terms and conditions that defines your contract. Please it is 2022, do not accept a job without an offer letter.
  2. No Definite Job Description: I am sure we have heard stories of how in a start-up, you don’t have a job description, you do everything together. While this is true and obtainable in some places, it is always great to have a well spelt-out job description that your performance is benchmarked against. It is okay for this to change over time as your role expands or as you take up more responsibilities, but for your sanity and for the sake of your mental health, please ensure there is a job description for you.
  3. Proper Hierarchy: Have you been to those firms run by family members before? And how there is neither a reporting line nor an explicit hierarchical structure? Today you might be reporting to the MD and tomorrow you are reporting to the GM who is the elder brother of the MD.The secretary might ask you to retype a memo because she is the MD’s cousin (or mistress as the case maybe) and the Chief Operating office barely comes to work because she is the GM’s wife’s friend.Please, if you find yourself in this kind of environment, do not hesitate to leave as soon as you can. Lack of structure, hierarchy and proper governance do influence both the inward flow and outlook perception of an organization, and you don’t want to be with a firm that investigative journalists are targeting, do you?
  4. Unstructured compensation: This is another red flag you should be aware of. There are a lot of saddening stories about how organizations owe employees salaries or pay at the end of each quarter or pay based on performance or sales. While there are different kinds of remunerations, it is often always advisable to get clarity about what the compensation of the organization looks like, how it is disbursed and other relevant facts.
  5. How is performance measured: Largely tied to your job is how performance is measured? Some organizations use different systems like Objective Key Results (OKR), Key performance Indicators (KPI), Conversations, Feedback and Rewards (CFR) and lots more. Whether it is structured or not, system-based or not, project-based or not, it is very important to ask the question “what does success looks like in this role?” Who is measuring this success and how does it add to the organization?”
  6. Violence and Harassment policy: There is a Yoruba adage whose translation says “when there is no law, there is no sin”. It is very important that you work with an organization that has clearly written rules and regulations on anything related to harassment. Whether it is verbal, physical or sexual and this should be made known to all employees to enhance transparency.

What other pointers can be helpful to identify toxic workspaces? Please leave a comment below.