How to Identify and Address the Effects of a Toxic Workplace

By Jaagriti Sharma
March 23, 2022

An employee's work environment can have a lot of bearing on their overall productivity and mental well-being. Organizations should strive to create and maintain a safe, empowering, and healthy environment to help facilitate company growth. 

However, many employees feel that their current workplace is “toxic.” A report published by MITSloan Management Review stated that a toxic workplace was ten times more likely to cause turnover than issues like unfair compensation. According to this report, the leading elements contributing to toxic cultures “include failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion; workers feeling disrespected; and unethical behavior." 

The first step to correcting a toxic workplace is to identify whether or not your company has one. With proper identification and resolve there are many ways to improve the working environment for employees. 

How is a Toxic Workplace Defined?

Don't let a toxic work environment catch your company off guard. There is a difference between regular work stress and a toxic workplace that can have severe impacts on your employees, as well as implications for your company. A toxic workplace is one where any work environment or the people in that environment cause severe disruptions to an employee's life. These disruptions can cause mental and even physical effects for employees. These disruptions could come in the form of abuse, bullying, and harassment. Manuela Priesemuth, an Assistant Professor at Villanova University, explains, "...employees start to think that 'this is how it’s done around here,' and this belief manifests itself in a toxic environment that tolerates abusive acts".  

Top 3 Characteristics of a Toxic Workplace 

If you're unsure if your workplace is toxic, these outlined characteristics can help you pinpoint the activities and feelings surrounding your company workplace. 

  • Cyclic negative and abusive behavior. If you start noticing behavior, wording, or other actions by employees that have happened more than once, it is likely a pattern to note. Recurrent abusive behavior or harassment that is not addressed or discussed is likely to continue.  
  • Increased hostility between team members. Team members may be less communicative with each other, as well as with superiors. They may lash out or refuse to complete tasks as requested. You may notice that team members are not cooperating or working in groups. Rumors, foul language, or rude comments may be heard. 
  • Aggressive leadership. Supervisors and managers seemingly rule with an iron fist and anything they say goes. Strict rules leave little room for growth and even become damaging. There is no room for collaboration or idea generation. Employees feel shut out, misunderstood, and underappreciated. 

Effects of a Toxic Workplace 

Low Employee Performance 

The efficiency of an organization relies heavily on employee performance, which can be damaged by a toxic workplace for a few different reasons. One being, toxic workplaces typically don't just stay at work and they travel home with the employee. This is because the emotional distress and general distress do not just disappear when an employee clocks out. This can lead to increased anxiety and sleep disturbances. According to a new study, a workplace environment can have a direct impact on an employee's sleep hygiene and those with more positive work relationships, had a better night's rest. Poor sleep, increased anxiety, and stress from a toxic workplace can diminish an employee's ability to work effectively, lowering performance stats. AllVoices's employee engagement calculator can help you determine your ROI for maintaining engaged employees.

High Turnover Rate 

Employees that are subjected to toxic workplaces will not likely be able to recognize the signs before accepting a job. Toxic environments can also develop gradually, leaving current employees and new hires to make a decision. Those who are experiencing the ill effects of their environment are already looking for their next opportunity, in the hopes that their next workplace will be more positive. Employees may only stay for a few months or even a few days at a time. Company owners may struggle to keep new hires or even keep anyone long-term. Furthermore, employees may start arriving late to work or may not even show up at all. Experiencing a high turnover rate is not only one sure sign you have a toxic workplace but also a costly effect. This calculator created by AllVoices can help you determine the loss of revenue due to employee turnover. 

Distrust Within The Company 

Employees want to work in a place that has a good reputation, especially when it comes to the treatment of team members. If a toxic workplace is not addressed, your employees and even the general community may start to distrust your company. Without trust and proper communication, the cycles of toxicity could continue and could cause long-term damage to your company. Abuse, harassment, and bullying should never be tolerated within a company environment. You may hear rumors floating or disgruntled employees chatting. A level of distrust rising within the company is your chance to put your foot down and make a change to better the lives of your employees. However, distrust within the company can sometimes fly below the radar. 

How to Address The Effects of a Toxic Workplace 

If you recognize that your company has a toxic workplace, it is imperative that you address the situation as soon as possible to help curb negative effects and increase the overall wellbeing of your employees. Establishing and reorganizing company policies can help kick things off at the leadership level. Most importantly, you will want to build a foundation of trust with your employees and open the door for communication. Effective communication, inclusivity, and being receptive to employee feedback are tools to help your company combat a hostile work environment. 

AllVoices, a culture-focused employee management platform, provides company owners with a solution to identify and correct toxic workplace environments. Your employees will have a way to share their experiences and feedback anonymously, as well as safely, giving you a way to build invaluable trust within your company. Your commitment is to your team, and AllVoices will give you the tools you need to put their needs at the forefront. 

Don’t get caught off guard by employee feedback. AllVoices can help.
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