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What is Toxic Work Environment? Know Its Causes, Signs, and Fixes

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A toxic work environment results in increased stress in your day to day work life. We all have our bad days or even a month at work. Managers pressurizing to work on specific projects, the communication gap between employees and the management, etc. several challenges are the sign of a toxic workplace.

Lack of recognition, favoritism, unhealthy communication, gossiping, and high turnover are a few reasons that cause a burnout work culture. Toxicity at the workplace also includes bad leadership, poor management skills, loosened code of conduct, and lack of communication.

A hostile workplace faces such issues daily without a pause. It can create trouble, conflict, low morality, excessive tension, negative results, illness, high turnover, and even abusive behavior amidst employees. A toxic workplace defines the conflict, where personal problems also affect productivity.

Toxic workplaces are assumed to be the outcome of poisonous managers lacking credibility and poor leadership skills. A toxic employee affects everyone around, and when they spread negativity at work, other employees tend to take frequent sick leaves, lack productivity, and remain stressed. These people's purpose is to retain power, money, or special status or to distract attention from their failures and misdeeds in their work performance.

Find out what and who causes toxicity at work, how it affects your business and how you can fix them.

What is a toxic work environment?

When the work, the people, and the environment cause discrepancies in your life, a workplace is referred to as toxic. These disruptions can adversely affect your physical health, resulting in sleepless nights, constant vigilant feel, sweaty palms, and a racing heart. When personal battles harm one's productivity, workplace toxicity is identified with significant drama and infighting.

Top 5 Signs of a toxic work environment?

There are multiple signs of a toxic workplace environment, and this guide will help you identify them. Some of the significant characters of a toxic work environment are-


1. Chronic Stress

Do you wake up in the morning with fatigue and force yourself to go to work? A study by Monster found that 42 percent of people in the US have left jobs due to an overly stressed work environment. A job that leaves your workforce stressed, often hampering their time with family and friends, is a sign of chronic stress.

2. You’re Overworked

“A survey from the Families and Work Institute found that 43% of employees experiencing high levels of feeling overworked say they feel angry toward their employers often or very often.”

Usually, when employees work in a hostile workplace, they are often overloaded with job responsibilities. Being overworked can lead to severe burnout and cause resentment.

3. Being Bullied

Yes, workplace bullying is a real issue that many employees face but go unaddressed more often. In most cases, 61 percent of bullies are bosses, and 33 percent of bullies are peers. If going to work makes your employees feel burdened, scared, and threatened, your workplace is likely to have a toxic culture.

4. Office Gossips

“I have some tea...but you did not hear this from me.”

If you hear such kinds of conversations often at the workplace, it is a sign of toxic culture. Rumors spread everywhere, whether done intentionally or unintentionally.

You either become a victim or a contributor to office gossip. Negative communications among workers adversely affect peer relationships, team functioning resulting in malicious behaviors. Regardless of what side you’re on, indulging in gossip will only poison the work environment.

5. Your Boss is Hotheaded

Being a good boss is essential for a happy workforce. While bad managers cause high turnover, good managers boost morale and are honored on National Boss's Day!

Toxic managers can make the workplace poisonous and intolerable. Someone who continuously hurts your self-esteem, confidence, and questions your abilities, that manager is toxic. Such managers entirely misunderstand the concept of leadership, and thus it results in a toxic work environment.

What causes a toxic work environment?

People often ask- who is responsible for workplace toxicity? Who should be held accountable? Do we blame high turnovers disrupting team functioning?

Individuals at your workplace at any level can create a toxic work environment. Be it managers, colleagues, or low-level employees. Office rumors spread rapidly, and consistent peer pressure can make your workers feel wrong about their performance.

If your organization has not diligently communicated values, you’re likely to be in a toxic workplace. Poor policies or unadhered code of conduct create a sense of rampant resentment. Lack of communication from managers with poor leadership skills creates mistrust. We believe a toxic workplace culture is a result of bad leadership. One can also look at glassdoor reviews, and if you find negative comments, it is a sign of toxicity.

Memorize these pointers to identify what causes toxicity at work:

  • Your company hasn’t outlined and articulated its core values.

  • The values merely appear on the website but don’t seem to form the base of your organization.

  • Core values are not aligned with the organization’s processes and guidelines.

  • Employees tend to do things because “that’s the way it’s always been done.”

  • Managers with bad leadership qualities and biases do not provide regular feedback.

How to fix or improve a toxic work environment?

Once you’ve realized and recognized the signs of burnout work culture, you must act upon and eliminate your organization’s problems. Here we have mentioned a few ways through which you can deal with toxic coworkers and reduce high turnover rates-

1. Acknowledging the Problem


Once you spot the problem, you must address the issue with honesty and an open mind with your workforce. As a leader or a manager, discuss with your employees to fix what’s not right and eradicate negative communication amidst themselves. You must assure your workforce that you’d work to remedy the problematic work environment.

2. Specific Expectations


There needs to be clear communication that your organization won’t tolerate any discrimination, gossiping, or ostracizing of any employee. There needs to be an expectation for change, and your workforce must adhere to those changes with diligence and respect. One must call out the negative aspects impacting the workplace, and eradication of such problems is necessary.

3. Rewards and Recognition


Employees turn toxic when they feel the management and leaders discount their work and efforts. Implementing a fair rewards and recognition program will help employees work better with increased productivity, positivity, and loyalty. Let your employees feel wanted and not underappreciated or overworked.

4. Work-Life Balance


Focusing on work-life balance can help improve your work environment and get rid of toxicity. If your employees are stressed and depressed, it is affecting their physical health and personal life.

You must implement flexible work hours, fewer workdays, paid vacations, etc. to encourage your workforce to maintain work-life balance. This will improve their relationships in and out of the workplace resulting in creating a positive workplace.

5. Diversity and Inclusion


Encourage teamwork over favoritism and politics at your workplace.

Having a strict Diversity and Inclusion policy embarks positivity, unity, and trust amidst workers.

Workers shall not tolerate any sort of discrimination or bullying based on race, color, gender, sexuality, etc. Such harmful practices increase job dissatisfaction and attrition among employees, resulting in creating a toxic work environment. Therefore, respect for each other without judgment will lead to a positive work environment.

Bottom Line

Burnout workplace culture has become the norm, and if you feel trapped in one, you might think you can never get out of it. But these tips and ideas mentioned above can surely help you tackle your stress and take the necessary steps to protect you from a toxic work environment.

You don’t need to implement these tactics immediately; firstly, observe your employees, analyze the situation, and then decide what measures to take to remedy the situation.

This article is written by Gautam Gayan. He works as a Content Marketer at Vantage Circle. Apart from being a passionate content creator for HR services and employee engagement, Gautam is a theatre enthusiast, an avid reader and an asipring poet. For any related queries, contact editor@vantagecircle.com

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