Characteristics of a Toxic Work Environment
A toxic work environment is one in which dysfunctional, highly stressful interactions are the normal, everyday pattern rather than the exception. In a toxic workplace, supervisors and coworkers routinely mistreat each other and act in self-serving ways without considering the benefit of the whole group. Traits of a toxic work environment include cynicism, poor communication, dishonesty and stressful working conditions. When a workplace becomes toxic, turnover increases and productivity declines.
Cynicism and Distrust
A toxic work environment is a place where people dread going to work every day, as described by the Cleveland Clinic. They concentrate primarily on self-protection rather than the company's success when they are at work. When the culture of the organization is dysfunctional, employees at all levels can become cynical and self-absorbed.
Traits of a toxic environment include unfair hiring and promotional practices. Employees may believe that raises and promotions are given for political reasons to undeserving people, or that managers only look out for their own interests so the employees should do the same. Employees may feel that ethical behavior would put them at a disadvantage compared to their coworkers, and that their only option is to engage in the same unethical behaviors or leave the company.
When the atmosphere in the office is constantly tense and filled with stress, both employees and supervisors are affected negatively. Supervisors may get angry and verbally abusive with employees. Once this starts to happen, communication between employees and supervisors breaks down. Employees feel they can't communicate honestly with their supervisors because of fear of what might happen.
Without clear and accurate communication from their employees, supervisors can no longer make good decisions about the company's strategy or direction. Poor communication is one of the most common traits of a toxic workplace, according to HRPA.
Corruption and Narcissim
Toxic work environments have been blamed for major corporate scandals and environmental disasters. When narcissistic and self-serving employees start to focus on protecting themselves instead of doing the right thing for the company or community, the destructive actions of a few people who may have personality disorders can have a disproportionate effect. If a single employee or supervisor with a personality disorder starts to engage in corrupt behavior, other employees would normally report it. In a toxic work environment, they may choose to look the other way rather than risking their own positions by speaking out.
Characteristics of a toxic work environment include high turnover of supervisors and employees. People don't want to work in a place where stress levels are excessive, verbal abuse is common, hard work goes unrewarded, communication has broken down and corruption is commonplace. When new employees come and go frequently and new managers stay for only a short time before giving up and moving on, the likely cause is a toxic work environment. Until the corporate culture changes, the situation will not improve.
Scott Thompson has been writing professionally since 1990, beginning with the "Pequawket Valley News." He is the author of nine published books on topics such as history, martial arts, poetry and fantasy fiction. His work has also appeared in "Talebones" magazine and the "Strange Pleasures" anthology.