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Careers Advice
5 min read

Identifying A Toxic Work Culture

A healthy workplace is one where the physical, mental and emotional well being of all its employees is actively promoted and protected. It is an environment where all involved can thrive, both personally and professionally by being supported, listened to and valued.
Written by
Joanna Clare
Content Manager
Published on
May 2, 2024

A healthy workplace is one where the physical, mental and emotional well being of all its employees is actively promoted and protected. It is an environment where all involved can thrive, both personally and professionally by being supported, listened to and valued. Communication amongst colleagues will be clear and concise with  career growth and development will be attained through appropriate training, mentoring and various opportunities that arise. A healthy working environment embraces diversity and inclusion, recognising that different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences all contribute towards a workplace where employees are actively engaged in decision making. They are able to do their very best because they want to. It is a place where employees are safe and free from negativity and hostility.

However, not all organisations prioritise a positive environment and some will be exhibiting signs of toxicity which can be extremely detrimental for employees mental and emotional wellbeing. There are many ways in which an organisation can show signs of having a toxic corporate culture so it is essential that these are identified and addressed.

A lack of transparency about important decisions or upcoming changes can often cause a sense of mistrust and uncertainty amongst employees. If communication is unclear or less than fully truthful, then misunderstandings and unpleasant conflicts can occur with people taking sides and making unpleasant accusations based on fear not fact.

If employees are not able to develop their skills, recognised for their attributes and continuous learning is not encouraged, it can lead to a very frustrated workforce who have little job satisfaction.

A culture that tolerates discrimination, harassment or bullying in any form, not only harms those directly affected but creates an unpleasant environment for all when anyone could become the next victim. Alternatively, when working hours, bonuses and promotions are based upon favouritism rather than merit, it causes any trust and fairness to disappear.

Employees should never be forced to work long or unsociable hours with no regard for their personal lives as this inevitably leads to impacted mental health and then burnout.

So what can you do if you are in a toxic workplace? Firstly, be able to recognise signs and indications that all is not as it should be in your place of work and assess the effect it has.

Seeking support by confiding in a trusted supervisor, colleague or your HR department (hopefully they’re not all toxic!) about your concerns and then start to document any incidents, problems or less than pleasant situations that arise. By taking the initial stand and recognising inequality or unfairness, you may want to become an advocate for change. This can be invaluable if you feel the need to escalate your concerns. Seek legal advice if necessary - advice is free at Citizens Advice and some solicitors will offer you for example an initial consultation at no charge.

Be gentle with yourself and remind yourself that you can leave the job and so start exploring other job opportunities. Sometimes changing a toxic culture just isn't possible despite your best intentions. I know how difficult and draining it can be as I once worked in an extremely toxic and corrupt environment for a short time until I made the decision to leave. Prioritising yourself should always be the main consideration above all else.

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