Does your boss randomly shout at you when something is not done? Do you feel your colleagues aren’t the people you can rely upon? Do you return from your HR office with “We will get back to you” but they never do? Does your office celebrate each festival but that doesn’t make you happy or love your workplace? I’m sorry to say but the workplace is toxic! Toxic workplace culture is much beyond mobbing over work. If you were to sit in an Indian office for a week that seems to be doing well on paper, there are 80% chances that you will find some or the other kind of toxicity going on. Yes. Research suggests that approx. 80% of Indian workplace culture is toxic. The worst part is toxicity; it could be sugar-coated like working extra hours with monetary benefits. Getting up every day to work makes you sad but everybody knows you can afford everything you want. Communication among colleagues like talking behind the back is on point but communication regarding work and deadlines is punctured. And trust me! Many more.
Popular research on workplace toxicity
In research, it was seen that the types of toxic behaviors can include tearing others down, passive-aggressive leadership, destructive gossip, devious politics, a lot of negativity, abusive supervision, unfair policies, and aggression. A study by Harvard Business in 2015 School found that nearly half of employees who experienced incivility in the workplace reduced their effort and made a conscious choice to spend less time at work. Whether you think of your workplace as a jungle or a second home, your work life is all about estimating risk. “Humans are hard-wired to recognize threats and govern ourselves accordingly. More Studies have shown that 80% of the issues and concerns regarding employees’ productivity are related to the type of work environment in which they operationalize their assigned tasks
Signs of workplace toxicity
toxic work culture is institutional-centric; the company’s policies and procedures are designed with itself, not its workforce, in mind. Negative workplace culture also often means outdated work policies. Some common signs of workplace toxicity are –
- A micromanaging boss
Micromanagement is a management style in which a manager closely observes and controls the actions and output of team members. Indeed, regular check-ups on employees’ productivity are important but a healthy space at work provided by the employees is equally important. Boundaries shall be respected at all costs.
- Unfair work practices
There are many unethical practices which can begin from recruitment itself. For example – choosing a male employee over a female despite equal qualifications, hiring a relative of the boss rather than someone who deserves the position. Other examples of unfair practice could be favoritism, less pay, no proper division of work,
- Burnouts & Chronic Stress
Let’s be honest nobody can stay mentally healthy in a toxic environment no matter how hard we try. Soon the toxic culture will create unwanted stress which will lead to burnout and depression. Therefore stress management activities are important for every workplace.
- Lack of appreciation
Several studies have proved that positive reinforcement like appreciation, bonuses, awards, and recognition of good work has helped increase productivity and competition among employees, yielding the best out of employees. Lack of which can do exact oppositive and cause lethargy, demotivation, and no competition.
- Increased absenteeism
Waking up every day and going to work should feel easy in a non-toxic workplace culture. Nobody would want to turn up for work to deal with the same set of toxicity every day or maybe new ones, at some point employees will lose their will and interest to come to work and would rather stay at home or spend their day with something else.
Combating workplace toxicity
- Having a labor Union
A labor union is a group of people that are elected to make decisions that benefit the members who are basically the employees of a company. Issues like Employee pay dues are reported to the union; in return, the labor union acts as an advocate on the employees’ behalf. A labor union is an organization formed by workers of a company to improve working conditions and eliminate unfair practices.
- Open door policy
Communication is the key! To even toxic workplace culture. Proper communication at all levels in an office can reduce toxicity. Employees should feel they are heard and understood. Proper actions should be taken against all toxicity. Nobody should suffer in silence. Any kind of creativity should be welcomed, individualistic culture should be avoided. Research shows that communication does help decrease toxicity by 40%.
- Respect At All Costs!
A healthy workplace culture shows that even the CEO of a company will talk politely and respectfully to the lowest-level employee. No matter how much the opinion differs respect shall not leave the room. Being respectful is often misunderstood with no being strict. Being disciplined is very important which if not done can be communicated healthily.
Better Late Than Never But Avoid Being Late!
Toxicity reaches its peak when the turnover rate increases when the company realizes something is wrong or something has been wrong but it just gets too late and the company has to bear with the losses. Only if everything would be under control with proper communication, avoiding incivility, and promoting psychological safety things would not get out of hand. Therefore it is very important to have a good HR team onboard preferably with some Psychology background because understanding employees, and relationships at work and solving different types of issues require skilled and experienced people who know about human emotion, behavior, and mind, who can anticipate behaviors and most importantly know how to deal with a difficult situation when rises. It is very important to have a team that is not biased and takes the side of either employer or employee and knows how to negotiate between both. And that is the reason the field of Industrial and Organizational Psychology is escalating day by day.
Afzalur, R.; Dana, M.C. A model of workplace incivility, job burnout, turnover intentions, and job performance. J. Manag. Dev. 2016, 35, 1255–1265.
Beheshtifar, M.; Omidvar, A.R. Causes to create job burnout in organizations. Int. J. Acad. Res. Bus. Soc. Sci. 2013, 3, 107.
Anjum, A.; Ming, X.; Siddiqi, A.; Rasool, S. An Empirical Study Analyzing Job Productivity in Toxic Workplace Environments. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 1035.
Branch, S.; Ramsay, S.; Barker, M. Workplace bullying, mobbing, and general harassment: A review. Int. J. Manag. Rev. 2013, 15, 280–299.
About the Author.
Ms. Swastika Mishra, is an I/O psychologist who wants to transform Indian corporate culture into more humane and less toxic place. She holds bachelor’s degree in 4 subjects i.e Psychology, English Literature, sociology and Bharatnatyam. Her dream is that every corporate office would implement work life balance i.e encourage people to give time to their family, pursue hobbies yet be 100% productive at work. She believes there’s just a little strategy, planning and execution required to achieve this. She is also passionate about Acting and also runs an Instagram page with her family that promotes animal welfare; adoption of Indie, Stray Animals. Her hobbies are writing, videography, video editing, PPT making, acting and dancing.