Identifying and Eliminating Toxic Work Culture

Team IIBP Employee Health, Mental Health

Seema is a single mother of two and works at a multi-corporate company. Each day she would return home feeling exhausted, both physically and mentally. She finds no respite at home, as she would continue getting calls from her co-workers and boss. She is unable to set boundaries between work and home. Due to this, she could not spend much time with her two kids. At work, she would not feel challenged and would feel neglected by her co-workers. She no longer felt the motivation and willingness to do her job. The only reason she would continue working is that she was the sole earner of the family.

What comes to your mind when you read the above narrative? 

This narrative depicts the plight of working in a toxic environment. The concept of toxic work culture is not new to us. It is something we are well aware of, yet, sometimes we happen to ignore the obvious. Working for long hours, not having supportive employees, dealing with a narcissistic boss, and absence of order are just a few elements that define a toxic workspace. The worst part is that it affects interpersonal relationships which disrupt the mental health and psychological well-being of the employees. It is unfortunate for anyone to have to work under such horrific circumstances.

Something as simple as not living up to the organization’s vision, mission, and values can make the workspace toxic. “Toxic work culture is not an accident,” says Tony Vigorito in an interview. It is worth asking when does an organization becomes toxic. Let’s examine. 

  1. When you start feeling less valued and less appreciated for the work you do. 
  2. A reduced sense of self-worth is a huge indicator of working in a tox environment. 
  3. A massive increase in stress in and beyond the workplace
  4. When the work you do excessively impact your psychological well-being. 
  5. Working along with unmotivated employees can also affect your approach to working, thus impacting your performance outcome.
  6. Having to be involved in the cyclical nature of work can be physically and mentally exhausting. 
  7. The toxicity we are exposed to does not end at the workplace, but we carry it everywhere we go. 
  8. Workplace Ostracism and Incivility are also extremely powerful signs of your working in a toxic environment. 

The above mentioned are just a few signs that you might be working in a toxic work environment. These can severely impact various domains of our lives, be it social, interpersonal, psychological, or emotional. A study led by Amy Zadow, a research fellow at the University of South Australia shows that “companies who fail to reward or acknowledge their employees for hard work, impose unreasonable demands on workers, and do not give them autonomy, are placing their staff at a much greater risk of depression”. A poor management style is reflected in the form of poor mental health of its employees.

Moreover, a toxic work environment is known to cause massive stress which leads to anxiety, burnout, and fatigue. Besides, being exposed to a toxic work environment can heavily impact the quality of interpersonal relationships, in and beyond the workplace. Research studies have shown that the quality of our relationship is an important aspect that affects our performance quality and outcome, thus leading to counterproductivity. Paul White, co-author of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace emphasizes that.

After knowing so much, do you think something can be done about eliminating toxic work culture? Of course! It is very important to raise awareness about the toxic practices that are being followed at your organization. Both, the organization and its employees have a great role to play here. The organization must take the responsibility to educate its managers and higher-ranking employees about the detrimental consequences of their abusive and derogatory approach to dealing with employees. In case of any inappropriate behavior that might cause distress, the employees must take the issue to Human Resources, as it can prevent the act from repeating in the future.

About the Author: Anagha Raman is a final-year undergraduate student pursuing psychology from Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University, Delhi. She is extremely passionate about Clinical Psychology, Gender Studies, and Mental Health Advocacy. On an ordinary day, you’ll find her with a cup of coffee, grooving to the music, and probably surrounded by dogs.