What Brings About Toxicity in the Workplace

Last Updated on September 29, 2022

Toxicity in the Workplace
Upset black woman suffering from toxicity at work

Experiencing toxicity in the workplace is more than just disliking your employment. We have all had a lousy Monday, a difficult week, or perhaps a disappointing month. That is just how the career cycle is. However, you can usually get through a horrible Monday, make it through a difficult week, and learn useful lessons from an awful quarter.

It is quite different when you operate in an atmosphere that oozes toxicity. It’s as though you’re always faced with these challenges. Every day is a difficult day, every week is a bad week and every month you grow more and more tired, withdrawn and sick of it all.

Workplace culture does not become toxic as a result of a few rotten apples. The toxicity is a result of leadership failing to notice or blatantly ignoring warning indicators that something was wrong. It’s even worse, though very possible when the leadership is what is wrong with the workplace.

Allowing toxicity in the workplace may ruin the professional reputations of those involved (victims and inflictors alike) or lead to the company’s demise. Many managers, however, opt to look the other way, while employees are too afraid to bring the office drama to their boss’s attention for fear of backlash.

Employees typically struggle with productivity and motivation in a toxic work environment. Worse, a toxic workplace can lead to a variety of physical and mental health issues, many of which can have a significant influence on the lives of employees.

Do you have a toxic work environment as a result of poor management decisions and a general lack of culture at your place of business? Or has workplace toxicity become such a norm that you can’t even identify it? Take a look at these top 5 situations that can cause employees to lose focus and drive at work and in their personal lives.

Harassment and Discrimination

Toxicity in the Workplace
A black man is working while two colleagues are gossiping behind of him

Any time your workplace belittles or targets people of a certain gender, religion or ethnicity, tensions might arise. So many women face sexual harassment in the workplace. Women may be denied promotions and overlooked for certain jobs or tasks unless they get jiggy with the manager or CEO and that is just wrong.

In Nigeria, there are some companies owned by foreigners where Nigerians are paid as low as half what their foreign colleagues are getting paid. Imagine being an intern in a company, earning minimum wage while your fellow intern, just because they share the same ethnicity with the owner of the company, gets 3 times your pay! If that isn’t toxicity at its peak, I don’t know what is.

This phenomenon is all too common in workplaces around the world. Most of the time, the victims have no one to complain or report to within the organization because everyone else is either in on it, a victim as well or just does not care. The victim then has to deal with the constant harassment on their own as well as the plethora of mental, emotional and psychological damage that would ensue.

Office Drama

Workplace drama can have a significant influence. There are those toxic employees who gossip, spread terrible rumours or cause issues. Before you see them, you’ll hear them. These people spend most of their time expressing negative feelings or remarks about their coworkers and that can lead to a drop in productivity throughout the workplace.

Office drama can arise from intra-office romances, employee disputes, or management team members that appear to have a grudge against other team members.

Ongoing office drama can lead to an unproductive workplace, not to mention a workplace where employees do not feel protected.

Poor Communication

So many workplace issues are caused by insufficient, confused, or dispersed communication.

Employees in a stable workplace environment know who to contact if they have an issue, and they believe that the problem will be resolved immediately. In the workplace, communication must be two-way.

Managers must interact with employees not only to keep them informed about what is happening in the workplace, such as policy changes and prospective issues but also to check in on their staff to make sure all is well and work is getting done efficiently. Employees must also be able to communicate with their management team.

The structure of the organization should allow for open and honest dialogue without fear of retaliation or destroyed reputations. However, in a toxic workplace environment, communication is either fuzzy or just non-existent.

For some, it is so bad that employees can’t speak to other employees for fear the issue may become rumour or gossip and they can’t speak to management either because the management is as responsive as a brick wall. All that pent up frustration can really do a number on a person’s mental health.

High Employee Turnover

Toxicity in the Workplace
Dear Boss i Quit. Written on old typewriter

A toxic work environment might encourage individuals to leave fast in order to escape their existing situations, hence high employee turnover is one quick symptom of a toxic work environment. Leaving a job is a difficult decision, so when you discover that multiple people are doing so, you know something is seriously wrong. A high turnover rate indicates disorder, a lack of direction, poor leadership, or a lack of opportunity.

High amounts of staff turnover, on the other hand, can create a toxic work environment for the remaining employees who choose to stay as the management would impose unreasonable targets and have excessive expectations of them. Their workload would increase to cover for the loss of those that left but of course salary would remain the same. This could lead to burnout, loss of motivation and stress.

Lack of HR Support

Toxicity in the Workplace

The HR department of a firm may go a long way toward providing the assistance that employees require to flourish. For most businesses, human resources is a key investment.

Employee training should be handled by HR, which should include giving employees both the resources they need to achieve in their chosen professions and the resources they need to prevent a toxic workplace. Any toxic situations will be dealt with as quickly and effectively as possible by an effective HR team.

However, HR may sometimes overlook issues until they become much more serious, causing resentment to fester and people to struggle in their jobs. If those conditions are allowed to persist, repairing the damage will be far more difficult.

The HR is supposed to be a friend to the members of staff. A problem solver, mediator and fierce advocate for all employees. So when HR fails to perform its duty, who else can the employees turn to? They are left with their unresolved issues and that would definitely take its toll.


Minor setbacks at work might cause a significant increase in employee stress. Working in a toxic environment, on the other hand, can present significant difficulties for employees, including deterioration of mental and physical health.

Even while toxic workplaces are a prevalent problem, that doesn’t make it any less important for you to address the problem. Be sure to look out for toxic traits in your workplace and do all you can to make sure they do not affect you. However, if it gets too much, no job is worth more than your mental health and inner peace. Be safe out there.

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