Oct. 6, 2021

6 Warning Signs of a Toxic School Culture

6 Warning Signs of a Toxic School Culture

If you are a teacher or school administrator, you know that there can be many good reasons for teachers to leave the profession. Some of these include low pay, lack of support from administration and parents, and poor working conditions. However, one thing that all educators should fear is toxic school culture. When things start going bad at work it’s easy to look for an escape route — but if your workplace has been infiltrated by toxicity it may not be as simple as just walking away. Toxic cultures can lead to high turnover rates among staff members who are trying their hardest but feel like they’re banging their heads against the wall in frustration day after day. The end result? A lot of people quitting when they really shouldn’t have had to or wanted to.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Here are 6 warning signs of toxic school culture and what can leadership do to better the situation

Lack of communication from the administration

A school’s administrators can often be the first to know that things are going wrong. They are on the school grounds every day, voicing their opinion during school meetings, seeing who is wearing staff shirts on a daily basis, and observing how engaged students are in class. However, surprisingly enough school administrators may not always be the ones letting their staff know what’s going on. This lack of communication can leave teachers wishing they knew all the details before it got out of control.

Inadequate resources provided for school staff

Schools are often promised ample resources with school budgets, but school administrators sometimes don’t provide them for school staff. This can lead to school staff feeling that they are not doing their job because they’re not given the right tools to do it well. Not only does this affect school morale — it affects students’ morale as well.

Constant changes in policies and procedures

Constant changes in school policies and procedures can leave school staff feeling like they are on a never-ending merry-go-round. In addition to the frustrations school staff experience with constant changes, students also face conflicts with school rules. To alleviate this problem, school administrators need to admit that implementing new policies and procedures is going to be difficult and will take some time for everyone to adjust.

Unclear expectations for staff members to meet

It is very difficult for school staff to meet school goals and expectations if school administrators do not clearly state what they are. If school administrators provide school staff with clear expectations, it will help school staff prioritize their day-to-day tasks and enjoy their work environment more.

No support from administrators when dealing with difficult situations

School administrators can understand school staff better than anyone else because they work with them every day. Usually, school staff will not hesitate to talk to school administrators when they are dealing with something difficult. However, school administrators may not always be supportive of school staff when it comes to difficult situations even if they want to. For example, the school administration may take a neutral stance or offer a counterargument no matter what school staff is going through. This lack of support can make school staff feel unheard of and ignored in their time of need.

Administrators are not accessible, which leads to a lack of trust in the system

If school administrators are not accessible school staff may end up feeling like they’re working in a school that is not trustworthy. School staff may feel that school administration is hiding something and that school administrative decisions are made behind school staff’s backs. The lack of school trust can have a huge impact on school morale and student performance as well. The school administrators should actively strive to be more accessible to school staff if they wish school staff would trust them. When school staff can’t get a hold of school administrators quickly and easily, they may assign the school administration as the problem and not part of the solution.


School administrators play a pivotal role in school culture. They are often the first to know that things aren’t going well and need some attention, but they’re also responsible for communicating school policies and procedures clearly to school staff members. To avoid school environments from becoming toxic — and thus affecting students as well — school administration should do their best to communicate with school staff on a regular basis, provide them with resources needed for success, maintain consistency in school policy changes, give teachers clear expectations of what is expected of them each day without being unclear or vague about it.


Alfonso Mendoza Jr., M.Ed. is an Instructional Technologist, Instructional Designer, Doctoral Student, Podcaster, and Google Innovator that is passionate about education.

Connect with me on Twitter @MyEdTechLife