May is right around the corner, which means graduation ceremonies will be taking place and recent graduates will be stepping out into the real world. Being a rookie in the professional world can be overwhelming and somewhat scary for anyone; however, being prepared and knowing how a positive work environment should be will save time and energy in the long run.

Working in a toxic environment, especially under a boss who isn’t a leader can single handily destroy your career before it takes off. It could be the difference from loving what you do and jumping ship to start ANYTHING different.  Luckily, there are ways to avoid toxic workplaces. Knowing what a true leader is will help when trying to tell them apart from the bad.

Leaders should change the world by generating enduring enthusiasm for a common cause. They present innovative solution to solve significant problems. They catalyze shifts in people’s values and ideologies. They demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice personal interest when necessary. They help others get through critical moment of crisis. They inspire people to want to change, so that positive energy sustains the change over time. They don’t generate follower: their followers themselves become leaders. (Denning, pg. 22)

Here are some other tips to help avoid toxic workplaces:


Do research on the company before applying. Just as hiring managers conduct background checks on potential employees, interviewees should be doing their toxic-work-placeown background check on companies. Social media has made this step a lot easier. See if you have a connection to any employees, or a former employee through social profiles or mutual connections.  Ask difficult questions provoking honesty and insight into the operations of the company.  

Forgetting to do this step could land you finding out the hard way. You’ll find that once a position goes sour is when people around you will want to tell you their real feelings, but they didn’t because they were afraid to shatter your dreams and excitement. In hindsight, you will wish they would have shattered your dreams with a baseball bat of truth!


A lot can be said for a company with  a high turnover rate. As a career seeker, you want to invest your skills, time and knowledge in a company that wants their employees to grow with them. However, you will find that a negative workplace coincides with a high turnover rate.  This rate won’t be plastered on their walls, but researching the company and asking about their turnover rate during the interview process may reveal more than expected.  Another way to approach this question, is to ask about the longevity rate of their employees for the past couple of years.  


A great leader/manager/director should always have an open door policy. An employee will find out fast if their manager has an open door policy, or a “do not bother me, I’m too busy attitude.” . This will coincide with an uneasy feeling of walking on eggshells. If you’re feeling uncomfortable in an office environment to the point you don’t want to leave your desk, then it might be time to start looking for something else.


When a manager, career, or an office environment is physically or mentally exhausting, then finding a healthier work environment is a must! We live in a society that prides themselves in taking care of their employees, so there is no reason anyone should be stuck in a toxic situation. Yes, you don’t want to look like a job hopper, but you also don’t want to lose yourself, and your reputation, because of a horrible work environment.

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Sir Richard Branson. Forward9e94c020c15d920263731627d3b5c476 thinking businesses like Virgin Galactic, Google, Quicken Loans and more have all found that their success has come from investing in their employees.  Stop working in a toxic environment and find a company that believes in you as much as you believe in them.   

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*Denniing, S. (2007). The Secret Language of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire Action Through Narrative. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.