“It's important to consistently do a temperature check on the health of your workplace culture because cultures change over time,” says Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster. “Rather than suddenly realizing you're in a toxic environment and wanting to leave as soon as possible, be conscious about periodically checking in to ensure it's still in alignment with your values and is a healthy place to work.”
Workplace culture is “everything,” says Gillian Williams, founder and partner at Monday Talent. “As a recruiter, that’s one of the biggest things that we hear from employees about why they want to leave their company; they’re not in a culture that aligns with their values or work-life balance.”
A negative workplace culture can have a seriously depleting impact on your mental health. “If you’re not in a positive and healthy environment, it can really take a toll on you,” she adds. “It’s also hard to thrive and excel professionally.” And beyond your happiness on the job, work-related stress can carry over into other areas of your life, too. “They spill into your entire life as well as the interactions with the people you surround yourself with in your personal life,” she says.
So if you're dealing with a negative workplace situation, it might not be doing you, your career, or your personal life any favors. Below, find expert-identified red flags that it maybe be time to look for a new job.
6 red flags that it's time to look for a new job, according to career experts
1. You’re expected to be available 24/7
Knowing that you could get a call, email, or text from your boss that you’re expected to respond to, regardless of the day or time, can be incredibly stressful. “If you are not able to check out of your work, there’s always a lingering sense of anxiety,” Williams says. “It ends up impacting your entire life because you feel like you can never fully check out. Everyone needs that for their sanity.”
Salemi adds that an occasional, one-off email or text after-hours may not be a huge deal, but “if it's consistent, that's a red flag.”
2. No one ever takes time off
It’s easy to take note of when people around you take their vacation leave. And, if no one ever uses up their allotted time off, you might feel pressured to do the same. “This leads to burnout fast,” Salemi says.
Williams adds never taking time off is also just unhealthy: “You need to have chunks of time to fully reset,” she says. “You should work to live, not live to work.” If you don’t get a break and separation from your job “you’re going to drain yourself,” she adds.
3. There are a lot of workplace cliques
There’s a difference between people being friends at work and people forming cliques that leave others out. “Friendships and close bonds may develop between colleagues as their work family, but if it starts getting cliquey with private jokes, excluding people, and more, then that's not a good thing,” Salemi says.
“Friendships and close bonds may develop between colleagues as their work family, but if it starts getting cliquey with private jokes, excluding people, and more, then that's not a good thing.” —Vicki Salemi, career expert
Furthermore, when cliques involve a company’s leadership, “it can create a culture of favoritism,” Williams says. That, she points out, “can really isolate other employees and create a toxic, negative culture.”
4. There’s a lot of employee turnover
It’s definitely a red flag of a given job when a company can’t keep employees around for long. “High employee turnover means there's a reason why this company has a revolving door,” Salemi says. “They don't know how to keep their people happily employed there and they may not be doing anything to understand the underlying reason to make deeper changes so people want to continue working there.”
High employee turnover can also disrupt projects that you’re working on, Williams says. “You may need to reshape and restructure things, creating more work in the process,” she points out. It also can create a culture of fear if turnover is linked to layoffs. “There’s a feeling of, ‘will I be next?’” Williams says. “When you’re so on edge, anxiety takes over and you’re not able to fully focus on your job.”
5. There’s a high fear of failure
Nobody is exactly thrilled to mess up, whether it’s at work or in life, but it happens. Being in a place where there’s a huge fear of failure can ultimately hold you back, Williams says. “Some of the best learning experiences come from making mistakes,” she points out. “If you are at a company that does not allow you to fail, such a fear of making mistakes prevents people from doing their best work. They also won’t try new or innovative approaches.”
Being constantly afraid that you’ll mess up can also make you feel less sure of yourself and lower your confidence, Salemi says. “Oftentimes, this doesn't happen overnight and it slowly chips away at your belief in yourself,” she says.
6. There’s no sense of community
Feeling like you’re part of a larger team is “so important” in making you engaged with your company, Williams says. “If it’s not there, it can make people feel unmotivated and cause a lot of turnover,” she says.
Salemi agrees. “When there's no sense of community, you may feel disconnected, like what you're working on doesn't make a difference,” she says. “You probably don't feel seen and/or heard.”
If some or all of these red flags of a job describe your workplace, you might at least begin to consider making a move elsewhere. “You may try to convince yourself it isn't that bad or that it will change for the better, but I'm here to tell you it probably won't,” Salemi says. “Typically when you discover red flags, even if they're small and not flashing in big bright lights yet, you start noticing them more and the toxicity tends to escalate and intensify.”
The good news is that in many fields, now might be a fruitful time to explore new opportunities. “In this market, there are so many opportunities,” Williams says. “Companies are also valuing workplace culture more than ever. If you’re not getting what you need from your employer, it’s time to start looking somewhere else.”
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