What makes a workplace toxic and what to do about it?

A person spends the majority of their life in a workplace. When such a significant time is spent in one place, it becomes more than just a cubicle or a desk and a chair. In fact, it is their creative space where they brainstorm, solve problems, collaborate and interact with colleagues. It goes on to define who they are and how they form a part of the organization.

Industry leaders like Google and Microsoft invest heavily how their workplace is designed and the overall environment is within their organization. A workplace obviously forms the major part of the employees’ psyche and creates the tempo at which the organization will grow at in the industry. It influences how employees feel about the organization as a whole and their tasks.

While we know what makes a great workplace, I have already written a blog post about what makes a great workplace and how to design an exciting and productive workplace here.

We will talk about some elements that can bring down the productivity of a workplace and create a toxic environment for employees in this blog post,

  1. Negative environment

Everyone likes to be at peace. A peaceful environment to work in and be productive is half of the employee’s struggle to fight distractions and find their corner to take up tasks.

Imagine being in your zone racing away to finish your last assignment and suddenly two of your colleagues decide to engage in a screaming duel, or your team-mate handling a conflict with silent treatment or passive-aggressive behavior. None of this helps an organization in any way or defines a healthy workplace.

But on the brighter side, these issues can be easily remedied. Establishing a simple protocol how to handle conflicts or an initiation into the office environment when the employee joins the organization helps sets these straight. Along with the interviews, some of the organizations also access the candidate’s culture fit with the organization. This is a very good strategy that helps build a great workplace in long-term.

  1. Suppressing superiors

Everyone is on the path becoming the best versions of themselves, learning new skills, trying new techniques to re-invent processes, how work is executed and achieve greater results. At this time, what they need is a mentor, someone who believes in their ability and drives them to realize their goals and contribute to the success of the organization.

But this does not happen when you stunt the growth of an employee or fear change. Avoiding sensitive issues that might be a little unpleasant will only harm the organization’s success than help it. Employees put in their best effort only when they really believe in their leader and the significance of their contribution to the organization.

An enterprise that keeps their employees in the loop about their progress and actively encourages their employees to learn and re-event are the ones that see maximum growth and returns. Leadership training programs that teach how to be good mentors and great managers who enable their team to succeed.

  1. Stagnant skills and innovation

Routines have a tendency to become boring after a while and boring isn’t the ideal word to describe an employees’ experience with the organization. While you can’t keep shifting the responsibilities, you can step up the game with skill workshops and innovative learning sessions. However, the best way to kill boredom in your workspace is to consult with your team or even just with polls or suggestions and come up with activities that best suit your organization.

While the existing talent your employees have now might give you good results, the industry keeps evolving and moving on the next big thing and if organizations don’t re-invent themselves every now and then, they run the risk of being out of touch and losing out to competition.

None of these situations is an ideal condition for organizations to thrive and achieve good growth. It becomes important to update your team’s skillsets to match the pace the industries are growing and develop your employees. The power of collaboration and innovation shows up in brainstorming sessions and facilitating and appreciating creative problem-solving.

  1. One way communication

Imagine being in a conversation with being given the chance to voice your opinions. This doesn’t count as a dialogue, In fact, it’s just a monologue. While it is glamorous and great to watch it on-screen, it’s not exciting to be a part of in real life. We want our opinions given a voice and listened to at the least.

While one-way communication in moderation is fine because an insightful dialogue is not feasible in every conversation, it is the cumulative effect that harms the employees and the organization’s growth. There are several corrective measures that as a leader you can take to improve this.

One of them, Having an open dialogue with employees and an open-policy with your team whenever they need your input. Having a continuous feedback system helps leaders gather insights and constantly monitor the health of the organization as well as the employees.

  1. Toxic workers

A roast once in a while is well received and fun for everybody. In fact, in some cases, it brings the whole together for the better. But constant belittling and bickering just bring down the whole spirit of the organization. It is also a sign of unhappiness and disengagement in the employee and should be looked into before it becomes an issue.

Toxic workers are just not hard on themselves but on others as well. Some of the quick measures on handling a toxic worker are calling in them into a quick one-on-one meeting to discuss issues and complaints. If the employee continues with the behavior, it needs to be looked into urgently and possibly even re-discuss the employees’ fit with the enterprise.


One incident out of the normal doesn’t make a workplace toxic. But, it should also be kept in mind that toxic workplaces aren’t made in a day but it is a cumulation of events. Workplaces that are toxic do affect the employees’ performance and in turn, the organization’s quality of work. Some of the issues these organizations face include high turnover, employee burn-out, decreased productivity and general unhappiness at the workplace. Indirectly, it affects your reputation in the industry and causes difficulties when you looking to hire talented employees.

While maintaining a happy workplace and happy employees does take a little bit of effort but it pays off exponentially in the long run and helps your organization achieve new heights in the industry.

Tell us how you tackle negative issues at your workplace in the comments below.

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