If you’re not happy in your role, it may be because the workplace culture is a breeding ground for fear and stunted professional growth.

Not sure if your workplace is toxic? If you experience these nine things daily, it’s undeniable.

1. When your boss scares you more than inspires you

Hating the boss is as old as Keith Richards – but not all tropes should be accepted.

If you don’t have a LWF (leader worth following), you’re in big, big trouble. A leader is there to support and guide you, and ultimately have you feeling like you happily drank the Kool-Aid and have no regrets.

The music industry is the place where magic is made every day. It nurtures creativity and plays a hand in creating remarkable experiences. So when the person who pays your rent fails to recognise the draconian nature of a fear-based ‘boss-employee’ dynamic, they’re just shooting themselves in the foot.

Professionalism and decorum are paramount, but you shouldn’t stand for any kind of intimidation.

For information around your rights in the workplace, check out these fact sheets over at fairwork.gov.au.

2. Clock watchers

Unless you need to meet a certain deadline, it’s counter-productive to push for a 9-5 workplace mentality. The music industry’s work day is as fluid and ever-changing as the Murray River as it is, but encouraging strict work hours will only hurt the company in two ways:

  • It sends a message to staff that their every move is being watched and judged.
  • It tells staff they should only be working within the hours you provide because you don’t trust them to be autonomous.

3. There’s pointing fingers all over the place

If your team doesn’t believe that they are fully responsible for their own actions – and they pass the buck at any opportunity – you’ve got yourself a toxic environment.

Sometimes ‘the blame game’ can be instilled from the top, where company heads lack accountability. Sometimes it can be passed around like a virus, where one staff member infects the entire office. Both instances are just as destructive.

This is going to sound corny (because it absolutely is) but if the aforementioned sounds all too familar to you then you have two options: quit, or ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.’ Use your voice when you see the blame game in action, exercise personal accountability at every opportunity and document any instances that are especially conflictive.

4. Only one or two people in the company actually have the power to make decisions over projects

When the music industry embraced streaming, it turned the entire businesses around and took us out of the red. But it was a long, slow, laborious process and contributed to much of the recording industry’s struggles in the early noughties.

We’ve learned our lesson and now even some of the largest operations are able to pivot quickly; that’s because of their necessary chain of command. If the bulk of your company isn’t the master or their own corner then it’s destined for self-destruction.

5. You’re questioned or judged for sick days

Music industry workers are inherently overworked, underpaid and undervalued. Workplace stresses, lack of support or resources, even restructures and changes in the workplace can leave staff prone to sickness or feeling overwhelmed. In no way should they be judged for putting their health first.

One more thing: According to a recent report by Heads Up, poor mental health costs Australian workplaces an estimated $10.9 billion per year due to absenteeism, loss of productivity and compensation claims.

If your company doesn’t offer a specific number of ‘mental health days’ each year then perhaps make it known that sick days aren’t just for death-bed days that warrant a permission slip-style certificate from their doctor.

6. Distrust is rife

Work should not be a game of Survivor, complete with strategic alliances, collusion, and tribal councils. It’s unsafe and unwise to work in an environment where colleagues are pitted against each other and even made to compete.

Not only does this create office enemies and a petri dish of pointing fingers and animosity, it creates an atmosphere absent of integrity. And when it’s every person for themselves, you can kiss the company vision goodbye.

7. When nobody understands how promotions and raises are awarded

When promotions seem random and people aren’t informed of exactly how they happened – or what kind of growth plan the business has for the individual – bitterness and resentment builds.

We’ve seen it before, a new face takes a top role faster than the perfect candidate can even say the word ‘cronyism’. It can create job insecurity among staff, and it sends mixed messages regarding future development.

The only way around it is through transparency. Staff should know exactly what it takes to be offered that higher position, or to be paid a higher rate, and leaders should know each employee’s growth plan – because they created it with them!

8. You’re expected to drink at industry events

Alcohol and drug use are two of the most crippling substances to the health of Australia’s music industry. While we’ve come to love and expect an alcohol sponsor at industry showcases, leaders who push staff to be seen with a drink in their hands ought to do a little soul-searching.

It’s counter-productive, especially on a week night, and it could be ruinous to your staff member’s health; both in the way they view leadership, and from a duty-of-care perspective.

Check out these Strategies for Workplace Functions & Events here.

9. Gossip is the norm

If office banter is often replaced with gossip – where workers freely offer up their disgruntled opinions about one another – then morale is at an all time low.

This is especially harmful if criticisms aren’t followed by suggested solutions. It’s one thing to take issue with a staff member, a project or the leadership as a whole, but there are proper channels and processes in place to handle these issues correctly.

The music industry is full of small businesses who don’t have an HR Department or even a company code of conduct. Not having an HR Manager is often the norm but every company, large or small, should have a code of conduct. Check out The Ethics Centre for tips on creating one.

Disclaimer: This writer has no experience in psychology or human resources. She’s the Managing Editor at Seventh Street Media and she just wants us all to be nicer to each other.