Toxic Workplaces: Signs, Impact and Solution

Toxic Workplaces: Signs, Impact and Solution

toxic workplace

Have you ever lied to your boss that you were sick to get out of a work event? Received workload far beyond your abilities to get done with? Dealt with an overly controlling and micromanaging boss? Been a victim of workplace politics or gossip? In today’s career-focused world, the workplace is not just a physical space where one spends a significant portion of their time.

It’s also where we seek growth and fulfilment. However, not all workplaces provide the nurturing and supportive environments we hope for. This article delves into the critical issue of “Toxic Workplaces and Employee Mental Health exploring the factors that contribute to a toxic work environment, its far-reaching effects on employees’ mental health, and strategies to prevent, tackle and adjust to this growing problem.

What’s a Toxic Workplace?

A toxic workplace isn’t always easy to identify. The above-mentioned examples state poor communication, excessive workload, micromanagement, and overall, what are determined as aspects of a toxic workplace environment. It’s not just about occasional conflicts or stress – it’s a consistent, harmful environment that manifests itself in several ways. In a toxic work environment, employees are stressed, communication is limited, blame culture is common, and people are rewarded (tacitly or explicitly) for unethical, harmful, or nasty attitudes and actions. (Personio, 2022)

  • Hostile groups: These are exclusive groups that tend to exclude people from the workplace, creating a hostile atmosphere. Additionally, these cliques propagate rumours and gossip that exacerbate the already uneasy and distrusting atmosphere.
  • High Turnover Rates: Unrest and instability in the workplace are caused by a high turnover rate of departing employees due to dissatisfaction.
  • Blame shifting: A culture in which individuals and departments frequently place the blame elsewhere rather than taking responsibility for mistakes.
  • Toxic leadership: Leaders who deceive, lack empathy, or conduct unethically set a poor example for the rest of the team and are considered toxic. Other styles of leadership, such as autocratic leadership, may off as controlling and harsh since they make decisions all by themselves and demand their team members to comply.
Impact on Mental Health:

Working in a toxic environment affects employees’ mental health adversely. Constant exposure to negativity, high workloads, unreasonable expectations, or conflicts in a toxic work environment can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. (Rasool et al., 2021) Employees may isolate themselves to avoid negative interactions. Constant criticism, harassment, or bullying in a toxic workplace can affect an individual’s overall self-esteem and self-worth.

Read: Addressing the Impact of AI Worries in Workplace

A Harvard Business Review study revealed that a toxic workplace can significantly decrease employee productivity by up to 40%, increase absenteeism, and increase turnover rates.

Changing Workplace Norms

Changing norms and expectations significantly shape workplace toxicity and mental health outcomes. Workplaces are becoming healthier because of the #MeToo movement and growing awareness of mental health issues at work. Companies better position themselves to attract and retain top talent when they adjust to these shifting expectations.

Read: Burnout at Workplace

In the early 2000s, Netflix faced a toxic workplace culture that was marked by fear and a lack of respect for its employees. To counter the toxicity, the company underwent a major transformation. In 2009, Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, along with the company’s former Chief Talent Officer, Patty McCord, published the Netflix Culture Deck. This document outlined the company’s approach to culture, values, and HR policies.

The Netflix Culture Deck’s key features constituted continuous feedback and adaptability, enabling employees to make decisions independently while maintaining high-performance standards. It is firmly believed that its culture should evolve with its growth. This transformation inspired other companies to reevaluate their HR policies.

Preventing a Toxic Workplace:

Before accepting a job, it is important to thoroughly research the company’s culture, values, and reputation. Seek insights from current and former employees on LinkedIn, Reddit, and other sources. Pay close attention to the organization’s culture during the interview process. Further ask about the company’s values, policies, and how they address workplace issues. Establish personal boundaries to protect your mental health and work-life balance. Don’t over-commit to work or let it encroach on your personal time.

Ensure you have a clear job description and expectations. This helps to know what’s required of you and can help you set realistic goals. It is important to familiarize yourself with employment laws, policies, and regulations in your region. Understand what makes up harassment and discrimination.

How to Deal With a Toxic Workplace:

Keep a log of all occurrences and harmful or toxic behaviour, including the date, time, witnesses, and specifics. This is useful in cases where you feel the need to escalate the problem, this documentation may be crucial. If you feel safe doing so, consider discussing your concerns with the person responsible or your immediate supervisor. In some cases, they may be unaware of the impact of their behaviour.

Communicating with your HR department is key if the problem continues. HR is required to offer direction and assistance in resolving the matter. To address workplace toxicity, many firms have put policies and resources in place. Make use of these resources, which include grievance procedures and employee assistance programs (EAPs).

If everything else fails, speak with a lawyer or the appropriate government agency about taking legal action making a complaint or looking for a new position if the circumstances don’t improve. Your health deserves to come first, and sometimes that means starting over. It is dangerous for employees’ mental health to work in toxic environments. Developing workplaces that are safer and more productive requires identifying toxic behaviours, acting preventatively, and cultivating a culture of well-being.

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