A cousin of mine is currently facing a situation in the office resulting from toxic work environment which has put him in a position where he is looking for another job. His situation is such that he is not consulted on issues relating to his unit and has not been told what he needs to improve. When he brought up the issue with his line managers, the response was that of indifference and the practice has continued. He is now afraid to bring it up again for fear of repercussions.
Most people would have experienced toxic work environment in the work place in the course of their careers. As COVID restrictions are being lifted and employees start returning to the office, not everyone is looking forward to resuming in the office for various reasons. One of the reasons some employees do not look forward to resuming in the office is the fear of toxic work environment. It is not that it was totally eliminated during work from home but was limited because of absence of physical interaction amongst employees.
The result of the return to workplace global survey conducted by Ipsos for World Economic Forum in June 2021 across 29 countries revealed that 30% of the people surveyed said they strongly or somewhat agreed that they will consider looking for another job given the same salary and responsibility if required to return to the office full time. If the office environment was conducive amongst other factors, such a large number of people would want to return to office. The challenge becomes how can employers create a conducive environment that will make people to feel comfortable working from the office.
My experience of toxic work environment was energy draining. I dreaded going to the office and doubted my own ability leading to low self-confidence and anxiety. I requested for the help of an executive coach who helped me through the period. It is not everyone that has access to or is given a coach at work place which is why organisations should create conducive work environment for their employees. There should be a system in place to address any perceive toxic work environment.
Toxic work environment leads to low productivity and mental health challenges which is why organisations should ensure that policies are put in place to enable a conducive work environment for workers. Organisations with good work environment are more likely to retain talent leading to high employee satisfaction, low staff turnover and low recruitment cost. High employee satisfaction should lead to high staff productivity.
Causes of toxic work environment:
- Discriminatory human resources policies
- Unfair reward system
- Toxic culture that does not encourage staff to speak up
- Work place discrimination on the ground of sex, religion, race, ethnicity
- Unhealthy competition not based on merit for senior management recognition
- Lack of clear cut succession plan
- Job insecurity
- Unclear job roles and responsibilities
- Fair and clear human resource policies approved at the executive management level which should be reviewed regularly to take account of changes in work environment and current best practices
- Progressive rewards system that rewards hard work and identifies non-performance for further development
- Personnel policies against discrimination and misbehaviour
- Professionalism as a core organisational value
- Transparent succession plan
- Roles in the organisations should be clearly defined with clear authorities and responsibilities
- Anonymous hotline for reporting discrimination and misbehaviour
- Staff satisfaction survey to obtain feedback to improve personnel policies. Such survey should include staff recommendations on how to improve the work environment.