Toxic Workplaces – The Reality Check and How to Fix It for Employee Wellness
As the global population continues to grow, so does the demand for high-quality, well-paying jobs. This demands a profound transformation in the way we value work and organize our economies to meet that need. Today, more than ever, organizations need to adopt a culture that values employee engagement and embraces a safe work environment.
But what if your organization is toxic? And how do you identify it?
The issue of a toxic workplace culture is no secret. Toxic workplaces are characterized by high-stress levels, lack of personal space, and an intense focus on performance rather than the needs of employees. A toxic workplace culture and working environment can lead to depression, anxiety, stress disorders, and even anxiety attacks. And yet they often go unnoticed or unreported as working conditions become normalized and abuse becomes an acceptable part of everyday life.
Recently, a poll was conducted by The Muse, an online career platform, to understand the reason why an employee would stay in a toxic work environment. The age of the respondent played a significant role in response to a recent poll.
In contrast to 59% of Baby Boomers and 44% of Gen Z, 74% of Millennials (ages 25 to 40) and 79% of Gen X (ages 41 to 56) reported encountering toxic circumstances at work. The youngest group, Gen Z, however, is most likely to take action: 27% of them reported actively attempting to leave a toxic situation, compared to 22% of Millennials and Gen X, and only 16% of boomers.
According to the CEO of Muse, Gen Z employees have spent relatively lesser time at work, which means fewer chances to interact with toxic coworkers or bosses. Younger generations are also less likely to put up with a problematic workplace environment, and there has been a significant push in recent years to better the employee experience.
However, age is not a factor in the consequences of a toxic workplace.
The toxic workplace culture was the most reliable indicator of turnover during the first six months of the Great Resignation. According to MIT’s Sloan Management Review, it was 10 times more accurate in determining employee turnover than other markers, including how employees perceived their pay.
It is clear that younger workers have different attitudes than their older peers when it comes to how they react to difficult situations. Another study by The Muse revealed that 80% of Millennials and Gen Z think it is acceptable to quit a job after six months if it wasn’t what was advertised, demonstrating their willingness to leave an unsatisfactory job.
Over half of the respondents said that lack of respect in their current or previous workplace best characterized their toxic work experience. Numerous people also mentioned unethical, exclusive, and violent problems. A “cutthroat” environment was the smallest reported trait, but it was still a significant mention at 20.9%.
It is anticipated that the present and future Gen Z employees will fight back against what they perceive to be unfair treatment because leadership and peers have a low tolerance for these kinds of activities. A recent poll conducted by the National Association of High School Scholars of 11,000 high school and college-aged individuals reported that equitable treatment of all employees (across genders and races) was Gen Z’s top consideration when selecting an employer. And so, the Center for American Progress aptly refers to Gen Z as “the most pro-union generation in America today.”
Many people in Gen X and Baby Boomer eras did not necessarily have the same expectations of their job as the newer generations. However, what constitutes a toxic workplace has recently become better understood. And so, this is the right time for employers to take their call to action.
According to a survey by Muse, 44% of respondents who experienced toxic work environments mostly held their leaders accountable for it and 41% blamed their direct managers. Leadership and management training was the most frequently mentioned action when asked how to improve a toxic environment.
Although it is crucial to removing a toxic culture, it is not always simple for an employer to acknowledge that this is a problem. Most companies do not have the luxury of being able to check for toxic environments in real-time. Instead, they rely on outdated data about the company’s current working conditions.
And while every organization has different policies and practices, the results tend to be the same: In a world where everyone is connected and communication is so easy to come by, toxic workplaces have become the new normal. Fortunately, there are ways to spot the toxicity in action—and take action before it’s too late.
The most common and effective action suggested by experts is – ‘listening to your employees’ – through a variety of channels and with as little defensiveness as possible is important. If people don’t have a forum to express their frustration, they may simply leave, and employers will never know that they could have reduced turnover and disruption to the business.
More importantly, building a healthy workplace culture with the right EAPs and corporate wellness programs that boost employee engagement and build stronger teams can also be effective.