What is a toxic workplace?
Working in an environment that feels toxic can be demotivating, disheartening and unenjoyable.
A toxic workspace could be caused by a variety of things. It could be an office with a severe lack of enthusiasm from either colleagues or the management team. It could be where there is a constant fear of failure and anxiety about what happens if something doesn’t go to plan.
Gossip, rumors, negativity and intimidation are also a consequence of this type of environment. As a result, employees often feel confused or uncomfortable
A toxic workplace often leads to a high turnover rate as people struggle to continue working in a place that they dislike. As well as the professional effects, people in a toxic workspace could suffer from increased stress and anxiety.
In this article, we’ll discuss the five indications that your workplace culture may have gone toxic.
1. Employees are afraid to speak up
One reason that a workplace remains toxic is that employees are afraid to speak up. By speaking up people believe they will be viewed as weak or unable to cope with the difficulties in their job.
They also may be in a difficult position where the person they need to complain about is either their superior or works closely with them making it uncomfortable.
Employees not speaking up about their experience results in more people feeling uncomfortable and affected by the toxic environment. This will place more pressure on the employees, feeling unable to express themselves at work.
Employees and the company are heavily affected by this as the well-being of staff diminishes leading to either high levels of absences or turnover rate.
2. Lack of trust
A toxic workplace will increase a lack of trust between colleagues as well as employees and employers. When individuals feel as though they can’t trust the people around them, they become uncomfortable and contribute to the toxic environment.
By having a lack of trust, employees will result in building barriers between each other, stopping them from contributing to outcomes and supporting one another. This will have a direct effect on staff well-being.
If employees can’t trust one another, the work being produced by teams will be inconsistent affecting the outcome that the company produces.
3. High turnover rate
If people are uncomfortable at work due to a toxic work environment more people will search for work elsewhere, contributing to a high turnover rate.
A high turnover rate would reduce the number of people in the company to divide the work between, placing more work on the individuals who haven’t left, increasing the toxic environment and discomfort, resulting in more people leaving and a higher turnover rate.
The more people are leaving, the more pressure is placed on existing employees and the company as a whole, increasing the stress and negativity in the workplace.
4. A lot of drama and gossip
Gossip and drama in the workplace contribute to a toxic environment. It makes employees feel anxious and on edge about who is talking about them and what they are saying.
This often has a negative effect on the productivity of employees as they are spending more time discussing topics that aren’t work-related and less time doing the work.
Gossip and drama happen when there is an immature attitude at work and people embellish and dramatize stories. By exaggerating an overheard story, gossip easily gets out of hand and can become fictitious and hurtful.
Drama and gossip can manifest in the workplace due to jealousy and envy. Working with people that others are intimidated by or jealous of can often lead to malicious gossiping, resulting in a toxic workplace.
This type of environment can lead staff members to leave, increase constant absences or reduce mental well-being leading to a negative and uncomfortable environment.
5. Favoritism or nepotism
Favoritism and nepotism are both two factors that can create a toxic workplace. Favoritism is showing an unfair preference towards one person or a group of people due to the fact that you have a better relationship with them. Nepotism is hiring and showing favoritism to a family member.
Both favoritism and nepotism happen when employers want to create a loyal and comfortable environment at work for themselves. By hiring and working with people you get on with or understand, there is a higher chance of a positive environment. However, this can have a negative impact on other employees.
If an employer constantly has favoritism or nepotism it reduces the motivation of other workers as they believe regardless of what they accomplish, they won’t receive a fair chance at a promotion or incentives.
This creates a toxic environment and increases the chance of employees leaving the workplace or lowering the quality of the work they produce.
How to address workplace toxicity
Workplace toxicity is an uncomfortable and difficult situation to be in for both employers and employees. It is possible for HR to reduce and limit toxicity by introducing strategies and attitudes to support workers, such as:
Viewing conflict as a positive strategy, gives everyone the option to have their voices heard and normalizes any situation where feedback is given.
Ensuring that everyone is spoken to as equals regardless of rank in the company. This could also be supported with a no-blame rule.
Putting multiple people in charge of making decisions to reduce favoritism and nepotism.
Supporting a positive workplace will improve work productivity and happiness, and create a safe space for everyone.