13 Red Flags of Toxic Relationships

UPDATED: May 22, 2024
PUBLISHED: February 12, 2020
red flags toxic relationships

Life is all about relationships, personal and professional. Some relationships are healthy and productive, while others are the opposite. Toxic relationships can be both mentally and emotionally draining, and it’s important to recognize when someone is having a negative impact on your workplace or life so you can distance yourself from the situation.

Related: 10 Toxic People You Should Avoid

While you might already have an inkling that a particular friend or colleague is toxic, we asked a group of Young Entrepreneur Council members to share some clear warning signs of a toxic personal or professional relationship. This is what they said to watch out for:

1. Deflection

Toxic people are often willing to project on others the negative things that they are doing themselves. As a result, you may feel a sense of self-doubt, not realizing (at least right away) that you are being used as a distraction to deflect attention away from themselves.

Chris ChristoffMonsterInsights

2. Lack of Dependability

We all know people who are void of personal responsibility and think someone else is to blame for everything that goes wrong in their life. These people typically don’t meet deadlines or dates, frequently underperform, and show complete disregard for the people around them.

John TurnerSeedProd LLC

3. No Boundaries

Some relationships can drain you, especially when the other person frequently contacts you about regular favors, impossible ideas or gossip. It’s also unproductive to have to entertain those conversations, so it’s important that you communicate that you need to establish boundaries in order for the relationship to continue.

Firas KittanehZoma Mattress

4. Vengeful Actions

When someone on your team starts to “retaliate” to other people’s actions or mistakes, it is vital that you figure out where it started and re-evaluate the person or people involved. This can seriously harm the business as well as the working environment. The same applies for personal relationships.

Karl KangurAbove House

5. All Take, No Give

Whether you’re thinking about your personal relationship or a professional one, you should experience a reasonable amount of give and take. A major red flag is when you have a partner who asks for help and advice but never has the time to support you. It’s best to move on in such cases and invest in a healthier relationship.

Syed BalkhiWPBeginner

6. Using Personal Information Against You

You know that you’re in a toxic relationship when the other person uses your past or your weaknesses against you. They may use personal information to put you down in front of others, or use it to manipulate you into doing what they want. This is a clear sign of a bad relationship that you should get out of.

Blair WilliamsMemberPress

7. Inability to See Other People’s Perspectives

When entering a business venture with someone, or connecting with a new colleague, look out for signs that they are unable to see things from another’s point of view. If they don’t have the ability to step into someone else’s shoes in order to work, compromise and collaborate, they’re unlikely to bring positive value to your working relationship together.

Thomas SmaleFE International

8. Isolation

In the professional and personal world, a person should never isolate you. One example is a manager asking you to work overtime but report regular hours to HR; this deprives you of the time you can spend with your family. Or someone goes through your phone contacts and tells you not to reach out to anyone. Everyone functions better with a healthy social network and losing one is a red flag.

Patrick BarnhillSpecialist ID, Inc.

9. Lack of Integrity

When what they say doesn’t align with their actions, that is a red flag. Some people know how to say all the right things, but they do nothing to back up what they say. Notice this and don’t be afraid to call it out. They will continue as long as they can get away with it!

Diego OrjuelaCables & Sensors

10. Lack of Trust

Healthy relationships, both personal and professional, require trust. Feeling worried that someone might not have your best interests at heart or may do something damaging to you is a red flag that the relationship is toxic. To grow and thrive in a healthy manner, both parties must be committed to openness and honesty in order to feel safe in putting trust in one another.

Stephen BeachCraft Impact Marketing

11. Restricting or Controlling You

As an adult, it’s important for you to make your own decisions. You’re an autonomous being and you need to be able to work and live the same way, independently. If a partner restricts you or controls you in any way, it’s time for a change.

Stephanie WellsFormidable Forms

12. Stagnation

If things are moving and the personal relationship or professional interactions become stagnant, it’s a sign that things aren’t going well. If you continue to remain in relationships that don’t grow, you won’t be growing either, and that is not a help to either person in the long run.

Matthew PodolskyFlorida Law Advisers, P.A.

13. Perpetual Negativity

One red flag of a toxic relationship is someone who is perpetually pulling you down or holding you back from achieving your personal or professional goals. It’s OK to have “the challenger” who pokes holes in your assumptions and makes you aware of the risks to protect you, but when this turns into perpetual negativity, it’s time to cut ties.

Zach FerresCoplex

Related: 4 Important Truths of Lasting Relationships

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.

Image by GoodStudio/Shutterstock.com

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.