The Devil Wears Prada

Raise your hand if you’d rather be at the beach then behind a desk. Same, and it’s totally normal when there’s summer sunshine to bask in just outside your office door. But if you wake up loathing your weekday every day, even before it even begins, you may be the victim of a toxic work environment. The ladies of Career Contessa — a career advice site for women — are breaking it down…

We can talk all day about what work-life balance looks like, but the truth is, there really isn’t just one answer. Everyone’s different, right? So it goes without saying that we all have different tolerances for testy co-workers, tight deadlines and, of course, work-related stress.

Still, how can you tell when it’s gone too far? Often the warning signs come not from your office, but from your own life. Here are just a few to look out for.

Sign 1: You Dread Mondays

Like, really, dread. It’s always a bummer to leave the weekend behind, but if you find yourself caught in an infinite loop of counting down to the next Friday (you know the term “living for the weekend”?), you’ve got a big problem. Worse, often this feeling means that you also can’t focus on the tasks at hand. Fortunately there are ways to amp up your productivity, but those tricks only go so far. Given that anywhere from forty to sixty hours of your week takes place in those office confines, that knee-jerk reaction that makes you want to call out sick is a major hint that you’re not in a good spot.

Sign 2: You’re Fighting With Your S.O. (More Often)

Repressed stress comes out eventually, and it’s usually easier to let it out when you’re around the person you trust the most. If you find you’re bickering with your partner more than usual, especially (but not only) on topics related to work-life balance, it’s often a sign that you’re bringing work problems home with you. Take a step back and consider where the frustration stems from — is it really them? Or is it you? Our favorite trick: Call your mom or best friend and ask if she’s noticed any changes in your behavior lately. It’s surprisingly insightful.

Sign 3: You Keep Getting Sick

Compromised immune system? Sure sign of stress. If you’re freaked out about your work, things slip through the cracks — including self-care. If you keep catching colds, aren’t sleeping well or are just feeling generally zapped, ask yourself what’s causing you to feel run down. It might be how much energy you’re putting into responding to your testy boss or disorganized co-workers.

Sign 4: You Feel Trapped

Anxiety. It can come up out of nowhere, and sometimes it’s impossible to explain what’s causing it. But if innocent questions like, “How’s work?” are making you squirm, stress out or even snap at a friend, it’s probably coming from a deep-seated feeling that you can’t escape your situation. You can quit your job. And feeling like you can’t? That’s your body telling you that you’re avoiding facing something that you know you need to address.

Sign 5: You Feel Crazy

Turns out gaslighting isn’t just a buzzword on the Internet — it’s also a very real tactic that colleagues might be using against you. The concept is pretty simple. Colleagues react to your suggestions or feedback by making you feel like it’s totally unfounded. “Why are you acting like this?” “You’re not making any sense.” “I’m happy to talk about this when you’ve got something useful to suggest.” If this type of behavior is rampant in your office, it’s not the right office for you.

Sign 6: Mean Girls is So, So Real

High school may be in your rearview, but cliques are forever. If you sense that you’re an outcast at work and find yourself wondering why you’re not invited to join in happy hours or lunch outings with your team, you’re encountering a latent form of bullying. Don’t get us wrong, having a work-wife is a great thing. But not when it means that people are teaming up, picking sides or gossiping in hallways. This is a public office. There’s no reason why there should be private side conversations going on, especially about you or your work. That logic goes for management, too. If your boss tells you what they don’t like about a co-worker, there’s a high chance they’re telling someone else what they don’t like about you. Big problem.

Sign 7: You Sense Your Boss Is Threatened By You

Your boss should be there to help you learn and expand your abilities within the company. If he or she takes credit for your ideas in meetings, micromanages to prevent you from owning projects, criticizes to make you feel small rather than equipped or avoids letting you take on increased responsibility when you’ve earned it, you need to consider whether it’s the right environment for you. The best bosses want you to do better because you’re in it together.

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