Do You Have a Toxic Workplace?

Discover the signs of a toxic workplace, along with an exercise you can use to start thinking about how you can change your workplace

Many people have the misfortune to find themselves in work environments that seem to thrive on turning people into 'the living dead'... what can only be called a toxic workplace.

How do You Know a Workplace is Toxic?

People go there to do what they feel they have to do, (with minimum effort), to pick up their wage. They get the heck out of there as fast as they can... the most dangerous place to be is at the front door at finishing time... so they can go, and be, and do, what it is that excites and engages them.

Even organizations that look and feel like they are extremely successful: high profits; a charismatic and well-thought-of CEO; brightness of future; its people say it's a wonderful company to work in; can carry elements of toxicity.

Here are Some Signs of a Toxic Workplace

  • High Absenteeism High Turnover
  • Slovenly or poorly performed work
  • High customer complaints
  • Turf wars and other types of conflict
  • Verbal or physical intimidation
  • Sexist or racist comments
  • Foul language
  • High workers compensation claims
  • People not turning up to social functions
  • High number of personality conflicts
  • People refusing/avoiding overtime where before they were willing to pitch in
Fix Toxic Workplace

Sure, in the short-term, organizations that have some of these symptoms, may achieve results. But, it is unlikely they will become a great company, that is still here in 100 years.

You may well be asking:

"Why should we bother with this stuff?
We've been doing okay for a lot of years".

So, to divert for a quick moment: "How did you get to work today?" Quite possibly it was by car. Why didn't you use a horse and cart?

"What did you do last night when you wanted light in a room?" Did you flick a switch, or light a candle?

For hundreds and hundreds of years, people used candles to light their way, and horses to get them from Point A to Point B. So why don't we still use them?

Simply because we have found newer and better ways. Once people have seen others read by flicking a light switch and the room being brightly illuminated - a candle is no longer good enough. Once they have seen someone get from Point A to Point B in 10 minutes vs 2 hours - a horse is no longer good enough.

The organizations that will survive into the future, are those that understand the need to respect and dignify the heart and soul, of the people who work there.

Organizations who give as much focus to human spirit and dignity as they do to the bottom-line.


Because the people who are entering organizations now demand that it be so.

In fact, you probably don't have the choice to stick with the traditional toxic model. Gen Xers and Gen Ys will not allow you to go back to the traditional 'candle'. They will expect to have the switch flicked. The baby-boomers are slowly moving from the workplace, and being replaced by the dot.comers.

If your current organization design and business model, produces the signs of a toxic workplace, you have a limited life-shelf. In a few short years, your business will no longer be relevant.

If your organization has some or all of the signs of a toxic workplace (listed above) then it may be time to review your organizational design choices. You can also discover more about motivating team members by purchasing the ebook "How To Motivate Employees" (this product is currently undergoing a rewrite and will be available soon)

Is it Easy to Change from Being a Toxic Workplace to a High-Performance Workplace?

Yes and No. But, if you want people in your company, who are filled with passion... and who stick around... then you'd better get changing!

You have a responsibility both as a corporate citizen and as an individual, to do what you can to engage the heart and soul of the people you interact with each day.

Besides, leading and participating in a non-toxic workplace is much nicer and more rewarding. You spend at least 1/3rd of your life at work - and work certainly has a great impact on the rest of your life... so why not be a great high-performance leader, and implement the strategies and systems that help make work a passionate, energizing place to be!

If you are concerned that you may be toxic and would rather not be ... then consider investing in yourself. Contact me about being coached into being the best version of you.

An Exercise for You:

  • 1
    Over the next week, take a walk through various departments in your workplace, and note how many signs you see, that suggest it is a toxic workplace
  • 2
    Identify the differences in leadership styles, between the areas that appear to be quite toxic and those that seem to be more energized
  • 3
    Spend some time contemplating how much passion you have for the work you do. Do you have toxic feelings towards your workplace? (You can't give something you don't have, If you don't feel passion and excitement for your work, and workplace, then how do you expect to lead your people to it!)
  • 4
    How do/could you make work an exciting, energizing place for you (and others)to be?
  • 5
    What personal challenges will you face as you start to make the changes from having signs of being a toxic workplace to highly energized?

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