Recognising signs of a toxic work culture

Identifying the existence of a toxic work environment is the first step towards creating a healthier workplace where employees can thrive.
By: | May 25, 2023

At a time when employee burnout is becoming an increasing concern for many organisations, a toxic work environment that exacerbates the deterioration of employee health is perhaps the last thing leaders in the workplace need.

However, are leaders themselves recognising the existence of a toxic work environment, or doing enough to eliminate unhealthy work cultures?

For instance, employees expected to work longer hours or weekends without additional pay prevents them from disconnecting from work and achieving work-life balance. This, according to new research by TalentLMS and Culture Amp, is the top contributor to a toxic work culture.

Other toxic behaviours include leadership failing to demonstrate transparency and clarity in communication, as well as showing a lack of consideration and courtesy. This lack of respect, said TalentLMS and Culture Amp, can lead to dismissive, disrespectful, and even rude interactions that create fractured employee relationships.

Backstabbing and gossip should also be frowned upon, and employees who encounter toxic behaviours or situations at work should be encouraged to speak up. According to a survey conducted by TalentLMS and Culture Amp, almost half (49%) of employees fail to act when confronted with a negative work experience.

Dr Joel Davis, Senior People Scientist, Culture Amp, said, “Oftentimes, silence can perpetuate the problems in organisations because they remain hidden from those that might be able to do something about them. Shining a spotlight on deep rooted problems is the first step to creating change.”

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To eliminate toxic work culture, TalentLMS and Culture Amp recommends a 360-feedback policy that gives employees an opportunity to express their opinions, while creating a culture of inclusivity and acceptance through company-organised social events can help enhance safety, fairness, and belonging.

Employees who demonstrate toxic behaviours should also be held accountable for their actions and be supported to make meaningful chance, while leaders must do more to root out favouritism and listen to the concerns of all employees.

Lastly, embracing vulnerability can help to foster honesty, reevaluate outdated practices, and remove structures that stand in the way of a healthier and thriving workplace.