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The Signs of a Toxic Workplace

A toxic workplace leaves employees stressed, unmotivated and damages organizational output. It can be a huge inhibitor to an organizations productivity levels, turnover and employee engagement. Its essential that when identified, to resolve the existing tensions and stressed as soon as possible. But how?

What is a toxic workplace?

A toxic workplace can be described as a place of work that is damaged by significant personal conflicts between those who work there.  In toxic work environments, employees are stressed, communication is limited and people can be rewarded for unethical, harmful, or nasty attitudes and actions. Bosses often show signs of favoritism by rewarding certain individuals for doing whatever it takes to get results, regardless of the human consequences of their actions.

study revealed that 70% of people working in Britain admitted they have worked in a toxic environment at some stage of their career. August 2021 it was found that almost one-third of workers are leaving their jobs due to toxic workplace cultures.

Let’s have a look at the signs of a toxic workforce and how to resolve them.

Signs of a Toxic Workplace

Low Enthusiasm

Bad attitudes are at the core of any office in which some degree of toxicity exists. It can be seen as a contagious mood that can spread to a group of employees, increasing the likelihood of other employees following suit. A study by the University of Michigan found that negativity in the workplace leads to workers who are mentally fatigued, defensive, and less productive than their happier peers

There’s high employee turnover 

If your organization is constantly having people coming in and out of the front, that’s a strong indicator that your culture isn’t in the place it should be. One out of five people who leave their jobs cite culture as their reason for exiting. Organizations that encourage a positive culture experience a 14 percent turnover rate, while those that ignore their culture are faced with a 48 percent turnover rate. There are a number of reasons that employees leave their jobs. But if you feel like you’re seeing a mass exodus, that’s a red flag about your work environment. 

There’s a pervasive fear of failure

It’s fair to say that nobody wants to make a mistake at work. In fact, 28 percent of people admit that making a mistake on the job is their biggest workplace fear. However, there is a difference between trying to avoid a mistake and fearing the perceived severe consequences that may occur if a mishap occurs on your part. When people are afraid to take risks at work for the benefit of the organisation, the whole team suffers. Due to this fear, nobody is clear on their roles or responsibilities. Crossed wires occur and people are always left out of the loop.

Toxic workplaces are dominated by dysfunction and confusion. This is because these negative environments are usually accompanied by a lack of trust, ineffective communication, and power struggles. Those issues make it all the more challenging for team members to collaborate, so projects, meetings, and relationships frequently run off the rails. 

There’s never-ending gossip and drama

Office gossip is a given in most workplaces with 96 percent of respondents to a study admitting to participating in office gossip.

Although, when gossip is taken to an extreme, is when toxic workplaces become apparent. If talking about others and leaving them out is a daily norm in the workplace, there’s a high chance that you’re working in a toxic workplace. It isn’t normal to openly communicate and, instead, opt for whispers, side-eye glances, and passive-aggressive remarks. Even though it might seem harmless, this maliciousness takes a toll. Bullying is correlated with psychological burnout, depression, anxiety, and aggression. 

How to Resolve

Talk it out

If you have a problem that lies with your co-worker, try to talk it out. Be assertive and try to reach an agreement/ understanding where the issue can be then left behind and both parties can move on. Do what you can to solve the issue, and leave the rest to the other person. If all else fails, there is always HR whose purpose is to help keep a healthy work environment.

Tell HR about your issue

HR is always there to resolve issues if you can’t find a way of doing it yourself. If you think that confronting an issue or a person will only add fuel to the fire, it is best to talk to a neutral party. If there is no HR department, express your concerns to your employer. Ask them for discretion and anonymity if you are afraid of retribution.

Confide in friends and family

Your family should be the first people you go to when you establish that your workplace is toxic, especially if you don’t trust many people in the office.

Friends and family are the first to notice if something is wrong with our work life. It’s important to share your struggles, then ask for an objective opinion from them. Those closest to you will know if you are just complaining or, if there is an actual problem.

Document everything you do

Whenever you pick up on someone’s tone being malicious, toxic, or aimed at berating you, write it down. Chat exchanges, e-mails, documents describing the event, and any form of communication. This is essential if things go from bad to worse and you need proof.

How to document:

  • After an unpleasant happening, or a conversation
  • Repeating behaviors that you have observed
  • Record the date and time
  • Screenshot emails and chat exchanges, and store them somewhere private and safe;

You never know if or when you will need proof, especially in situations where you will have to defend yourself. Documentation comes not from paranoia but from self-preservation.