Toxic Workplace?

Nobody wants to be a part of a workplace that is toxic; well except for those individuals who thrive in toxic relationships and environments. In an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle it is also essential that our workplace is psychologically healthy. The workplace forms a major part of our life based on time spent and importance. Consequently, it is essential that as individuals, we try as best as possible to be a part of a healthy work environment as well as help in fostering one.

Typical Signs of a Toxic Workplace :

  • People don’t work as a team as well as constantly tear each other down
  • People gossip a lot
  • Disrespectful to each other
  • The work environment is unfriendly
  • There is the constant blame game
  • People stealing credits for the work of others
  • Employees are more focused on impressing the boss than just doing a good job
  • Favouritism
  • Feelings of entitlement
  • Nepotism
  • Various cliques and certain cliques get the best work to do or are not held accountable for low work input
  • Extra office hours or working on days off are glorified
  • Stress is seen as an achievement
  • Little to no credit is given for work but mistakes are called out boldly and loudly
  • The manager is easily angered and insults staff

Despite the Typical Signs of a Toxic workplace culture, Dr. Sullivan ( says that “A toxic work environment is a feeling and not necessarily a checklist,”. “People know when they’re in a toxic work environment because you pay attention to what your gut is sharing with you as well as any physical responses.” Instead Dr Sullivan suggests that to determine if you’re in a toxic work environment, you should start by asking yourself a simple question: “Does my workplace align with my value system?”

But why is a Toxic Workplace not the ideal?

  • A toxic workplace culture affects your personal life
  • May lead to early death through stroke, hypertension, heart attack and other physiological illnesses
  • Frequent headaches
  • Lethargic feelings when it’s time to go to work
  • Can lead to insomnia, depression, anxiety, sadness, easily angered, nightmares, etc.
  • Low output or productivity on the job
  • High attrition rate for the company
  • General tardiness among employees
  • Reputation of the organisation falls as it becomes known for poor client services/relationships or products.
  • Profit falls

Fixing a Toxic Workplace

Fixing a toxic workplace is best done through a third party to avoid biases. For example, an organisational psychologist consultant can be hired or staff from the Human Resources Department. The following tips are also useful:

  • Lateral movement of staff
  • Feedback from both employees and management through unbiased, relevant and valid surveys and interviews
  • Coaching sessions
  • Team building activities such as games, charities and sports facilitated by a third party. Again, the use of a third party should reduce biases and prevent further growth of the clique culture or groupism.
  • An understanding by and between employees and employers about their individual roles and responsibilities on the job.
  • Get employees to embrace individual job output and less people characteristics
  • Re-assignment of teams, supervisors and in some instances managers
  • Create reasonable workloads and targets for both employees and management
  • A calming work environment (e.g. paint colours, plants, music, seating, etc.)

For individuals who find themselves in toxic workplace cultures, an extra effort will need to be made to reduce the effects of the toxicity. These efforts will not be from an organisational perspective but instead small things such as embracing activities outside of work, finding happiness and peace with family members, creating happy thoughts while on the job, avoiding workplace gossip, appreciating individual differences in the workplace, focusing on job output, etc.

And as always in the face of stressors or “problems”, always think of solutions and stay calm. Note however that once the workplace culture becomes unbearable, an exit plan should be created and worked towards considering the negative physiological and psychological effects of a toxic workplace.

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8 Signs of a Toxic Work Environment

© 2022, Stacy-Ann Campbell. All rights reserved.

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