Every day, millions of Americans deal with stress from work, and unfortunately, many of them struggle with completely preventable stress caused by toxicity in their workplaces. It’s common for people to face toxic attitudes from coworkers, supervisors, and even their working environments. Eventually, a toxic atmosphere will influence productivity and inter-workplace dynamics, affecting everyone in the workplace on some level. Some people deal with these conditions for years before they realize the toll toxicity has taken on them.
Constant toxicity at work is not good for anyone involved. Employees will not feel valued, supervisors and managers will struggle to maintain productivity, and company leadership will likely face a revolving door of dissatisfied, overworked, and underappreciated employees if they allow toxicity to go unchecked. So what are the signs of a toxic workplace?
Negative Company Culture
Employees can feel toxicity most acutely at work when they do not feel valued or appreciated. Narcissistic company leadership and an oppressive workplace culture can eventually become overwhelming for employees, preventing them from doing their best work and disincentivizing them from working toward the company’s success. If an employee does not feel valued by their employer, or if the employer routinely disregards reasonable and functional recommendations and requests from their employees regarding working conditions, what incentive does the employee really have to put forth their best work?
Company leadership in any company in any industry must make cultivating a positive company culture a priority. It’s essential to show every member of the team that they are valued and have a measurable impact on the organization as a whole. Leadership must not only demonstrate a strong commitment to their stated values but also provide employees with a means of raising concerns and complaints in healthy and constructive ways.
Stressful Team Dynamics
Workplace toxicity commonly manifests within small teams or within departments. One team handling one aspect of a business could function beautifully and have a robust and healthy team culture, while another team handling a different aspect of the business could be a shambles due to the team dynamics within their department. Toxicity in the workplace might arise between coworkers, between employees and supervisors, and even between managers of different departments that interact regularly. When these issues go unchecked for too long, tensions may boil over and everyone involved will be affected.
Team dynamics can fall apart for many reasons. For example, if a supervisor handling a particular department has no idea how the everyday operations of their department function at a basic level, the employees who actually perform the hands-on work will have little reason to respect the supervisor or believe they are available to help them when needed. The supervisors may also implement policies or requirements that make it harder for the employees to perform their duties and provide little to no value to the team or the organization as a whole. This can cause a team to fall apart gradually. Employees will be stressed because they feel as though they are on their own and have no support from their immediate leadership. Supervisors may become frustrated by seemingly poor productivity. These issues ultimately coalesce into toxic conditions that negatively impact everyone involved.
Communication is critical to every company. When there is poor communication between team members, their supervisors, other departments, and company leadership, an organization will inevitably begin to fall apart at the seams. Companies must implement reliable communication systems. This includes furnishing employees with the tools they need to communicate effectively, but it also pertains to the policies and procedures in place that allow employees to make their voices heard.
“Poor communication” also refers to a lack of transparency. Company leadership should explain their decisions as clearly as possible when those decisions affect the everyday responsibilities of their employees. They should also provide sound reasoning for any major changes they implement and provide employees with a means of voicing any concerns they may have.
Unchecked Hostility and Inappropriate Behavior
One of the most commonly cited factors of toxicity in the workplace is unequal treatment or the unequal enforcement of company policies. When employees feel as though they are not afforded the same rights and privileges as their peers, this can amount to discrimination depending on the reasoning behind the differing levels of treatment employees experience.
Inappropriate behaviors in the workplace also create a hostile work environment for some employees. For example, an employee who feels as though they are subjected to sexual or otherwise inappropriate behavior at work will resent their workplace and those responsible for the negative behavior. A hostile work environment can quickly develop when an employee who experiences this type of treatment does not feel as though they have any direct recourse to put a stop to it. This is also likely to affect their personal life in many ways.
Employees who feel as though their peers receive better treatment from management or experience inappropriate behavior in the workplace can understandably become exceedingly stressed and even resentful. This interferes with productivity and creates tension among team members. When managers take this type of behavior too far, it can eventually lead to team breakdowns or even discrimination claims from affected employees.
Harassment and Discrimination
In the event an employee is targeted for any reason and subjected to worse treatment than their peers, this is harassment and the grounds for many claims filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). When an employee experiences hostility in their workplace, they have the right to raise their concerns to their supervisor, and the supervisor has a legal duty to address the situation effectively. Unfortunately, many employees face discrimination and harassment from their immediate supervisors, leaving those employees to feel as though they have no one on their side available to help them correct the situation.
Workplace toxicity takes many forms, and it is unacceptable for any organization to allow toxic behaviors to persist within their companies. If you believe you have experienced any form of discrimination, or if management and/or peers at work have created a hostile work environment or subjected you to any form of harassment, it’s vital to consult an experienced employment attorney to determine your best options for legal recourse. The California Employment Counsel, APC can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with our team.