10 tell-tale signs you’re in a toxic relationship with your job

Illustration. Getty Images
Illustration. Getty Images

These are just a few of the telltale signs of a toxic relationship - but what happens when it’s not with a friend, family member or a significant other?

Toxicity (I know this word has been dragged for overuse lately, but bear with me!) comes in all situations and settings, and the workplace is definitely one of them. It often goes beyond just being unhappy with your job, but feeling stuck in a setting that can have serious implications on your mental health. 

READ MORE: Local vlogger Thandi Gama left her full-time job to start her YouTube channel, and it's paying off  

I’m no stranger to toxic work relationships, and I can honestly say it left me feeling like a shell of a human being no matter how many motivational morning podcasts I listened to, in an attempt to salvage a crumb of serotonin. Since we spend so much time at work, it spills over into practically every aspect of our lives, often making it difficult to compartmentalise our professional from our personal time.

As you can imagine, the unpleasant feelings from the workplace tag along for the ride. 

If you can relate with any of these 10 signs below, then you might be in a toxic relationship with your job: 

Getting out of bed in the morning feels dreadful 

I once had a job that made me feel so miserable, I’d wake up on Sunday mornings - a day considered to be one of the most relaxing days of the week - and get hit by a wave of sadness at the mere thought of having to go to work the next day. Even Sunday morning koeksisters couldn’t do the trick.

Not many people are too thrilled about having to be early risers, but when it comes to getting up for a job you don’t love, it hits you in a different way, and feels both emotionally and physically challenging to get out of bed. 

You feel silenced and underappreciated

A healthy relationship means you feel valued. However, a toxic one looks a lot more like feeling disposable, underappreciated and often silenced. In a workplace setting, this can be particularly frustrating, especially when you feel you have a lot to contribute. 

You are constantly asked to do menial, tedious, or unfulfilling work

Another tell-tale sign of a toxic work environment is constantly having to go beyond your role and do the things nobody else wants to do. This can often be done in an implicit (but sometimes explicit) exploitative manner, leaving you feeling disrespected and belittled. 

You can feel your self-esteem degrading

Toxic relationships can often leave you questioning yourself. As a result of being undervalued and disrespected, you may start to feel self-conscious and doubt your own abilities - both in a personal and professional capacity. 

You make no time for self-care 

Your nine-to-five leaves you feeling so drained that you neglect really taking care of yourself, and making time for the things that you love. This results in a feeling like you're living an unbalanced life. 

You feel like you constantly have to walk on eggshells 

The environment in your workplace feels hostile and you’re afraid to speak up in fear that you’ll somehow be in trouble. As a result, you anxiously avoid interacting with people as much as you can.  

You struggle to focus on the present moment

While sitting at work, it’s hard for you to be fully present because your mind is constantly elsewhere - anywhere else, really. You sit at your desk and wish for better days, daydreaming about happier situations, often living for the weekend. 

READ MORE: 'I quit my new job in just 5 days' - here's how it all started going downhill almost immediately and what I learnt

The people closest to you notice a negative change

When I was in a was in a toxic work environment, I’d often get asked why I look so down, the people around me started picking up on my behavioural and mood changes. And because they became so normal to me, I was unaware it was showing. This is definitely a concerning sign. 

You feel generally unfulfilled

A nod to the ‘shell of a human’ feeling I mentioned previously - a toxic work environment can leave you feeling like you’re floating aimlessly through life, and what good is that, really?   

You feel like you’re giving a lot for nothing in return

Not only do your efforts not feel appreciated, they also seem neither financially nor emotionally worthwhile. While you do need a job to sustain yourself (and potentially others), the relationship between you and your job is meant to be mutually beneficial, like any other relationship. 

Honourary mention: Your boss is not an understanding person.

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

As with any toxic relationships, the best thing you can do is remove yourself from it. If you happen to find yourself in this situation, start looking elsewhere if you are in a financially stable position to do so. Given the current climate of retrenchments caused by the pandemic, I understand that unfortunately, not everyone is able to just pack up and leave right now.

If you can't, assess your main problem areas and see how you can overcome them. Try your best to communicate this with someone you report to (and trust) in your workplace or your HR department. 

Either way, remember that you deserve a healthy, positive, and fulfilling work environment. And finding or creating one will make you a far more fulfilled human being. Godspeed. 

What was your experience of working in a toxic work environment? How did you overcome it? Tell us here.

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