I worked for a company years back that had "fun" as one of its core values. To live that out in real life, the CEO decided to call for a company-wide Nerf-gun war.

It wasn't exactly the infamous Great Office War, but we did check off the "fun" value from the list, at least for a day.

But there was nothing fun about working for a company that had 60 percent turnover and where you couldn't trust your leadership team as far as you could drop-kick them.

The day after our 60-minute amusement with foam-based weaponry, things returned to their state of toxic normal.

That's what this article is about and it may save you. Some people slog through work not knowing the risk they face by being exposed to the injurious and pestilential elements.

According to UNC's Keenan-Flagler Business School, it is estimated that toxic workplaces cost U.S. employers $23.8 billion annually in the form of absenteeism, health care costs, lost productivity, and more.

If these scenarios resonate to a cringe reaction, no pay or perks may be worth the trouble to stay. It may be time to courageously consider updating your resume.

1. Seeing the bad, never the good.

This is particular true of toxic management styles. They stifle morale and suck the life out of workers by focusing solely on what they are doing wrong or correcting problems; rarely, if ever, do they give positive feedback and reinforcement for the things that are going right. 

2. Work-life balance is fictitious nonsense.

People are faced with sacrificing their personal lives for the job, which is commonly evidenced by 50-hour-plus workweeks, little or no vacation time, and 24/7 availability for work communication. 

3. Bosses kiss up and kick down.

Toxic bosses may be respectful or even submissive to their own bosses but will pull a Jekyll and Hyde act -- lashing out in anger against direct reports, shaming them publicly or behaving unpredictably. 

4. The workplace has turned into a hostile environment.

A hostile work environment is a workplace in which unwelcome remarks or conduct interferes with an employee's work performance or causes an intimidating atmosphere for the person being harassed. Co-workers within earshot of the harassment or bullying are also considered victims when their work performance is affected.

Employees actively act out their unhappiness by gossiping after meetings to crucify others and their decisions. They are basically corporate teenagers whose time with the company is about to expire, and they're out to put a negative spin on things and spread rumors about others. 

6. Brutal internal competition.

In toxic workplaces, employees are pitted against one another and are expected to fiercely compete against one another, which is enforced by unrealistic performance measures that put the focus on individual performance rather than on team performance.

Options for dealing with toxic workers

Toxic behaviors gone unchecked, over time, strip people of their dignity and create a sense of powerlessness in co-workers. That's never good for business. Here are a few things to do to counter toxic workplace behaviors:

  • Document everything in case there's a possibility HR can intervene on your behalf. Even if HR can't help, your records will come in handy if news of your situation is leaked outside of work.
  • Set team agreements to axe the drama. For example: "We all agree to behave respectfully toward one another." Such agreements work because they're based on team accountability. If a toxic member isn't pulling his or her weight, the others should call that member on it.
  • Confront toxic co-workers or bosses and set boundaries. While this may be the most uncomfortable tactic, doing it quickly and assertively may improve your situation.
  • Emotionally disengage from your office and get a support system to help you cope with the effects of toxicity.
  • Remember that you are not the problem.
  • If staying is unbearable, consider resigning, but do it gracefully and professionally. You never know when you'll need a positive recommendation or reference.
Published on: Feb 21, 2019
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