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What makes a workplace toxic?

What makes a workplace toxic?

According to research done by Dr. Donald Sull, Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, the top traits that define a toxic work culture include:

① Non-inclusive

② Disrespectful

③ Unethical behaviour

④ Cut-throat culture

⑤ Abusive manager

If you’ve experienced any of these, you might already know that working in a toxic workplace can put your psychological safety at risk. A recent McKinsey report shared that psychological safety is “when employees feel comfortable asking for help, sharing suggestions informally, or challenging the status quo without fear of negative social consequences.” As a result, businesses, where employees feel psychologically safe, are more adaptive, agile, responsive and innovative.

While it’s easy to point fingers upwards at senior leaders and management, in many instances, these are people just like you and I. In my work, I listen to senior leaders describe toxic workplaces they want to exit for many of the issues listed above. They share stories of how they were unable to educate, influence or persuade their leaders/Boards to understand and address these challenges.

Why does this matter?

Dr. Sull shared a statistic that “people who work in toxic workplaces are 35-55% more likely to be diagnosed with major diseases (stroke, cardiac disease, diabetes).” Suggesting your work has a bigger impact on your life and wellness than you might think.

I share this information to first, validate what many of us are feeling about our relationships with the world of work. Second because “forewarned is forearmed.” As you learn about toxic workplace culture you can identify it, call it out and hopefully prevent it from taking hold where you work.

Dr. Sull reminds us that “even the healthiest work cultures have pockets of toxicity.”

Related Categories: Client Questions & Answers

About The Author
Maureen McCann is an award-winning career coach, master resume writer, and master certified interview, employment, and career strategist whose clients include C-level executives, managers, and professionals in all industries including the Canadian banking, oil and gas, healthcare, IT, and government sectors.

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