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Why do some work environments create toxic cultures?
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Why do some work environments create toxic cultures?

Saurav, 39 years old, knew he would have to adapt to changes in pace and environment when he moved between industries. What he didn’t anticipate was that he would be forced into a toxic environment with racial slurs and aggressive people.

Three very senior staff members made openly Islamophobic comments regarding an employee who was about to leave, using blatantly racial remarks, he claims. I was surprised to see no internal reprimands, or sensitivity training. This was a male-dominated industry where you had to be loud and aggressive, combative, and extroverted in order to get along. To get ahead, this often meant that you had to take a no-holds-barred approach when talking and self-censoring.

Many studies suggest that Sauravs workplace has toxic behavior. One in five American workersA toxic workplace culture has caused me to leave my job, 64% of employeesAccording to the UK survey, many people said that having problematic workplace behaviours had adversely affected their mental health. Sauravs’ case was about the behavior at his workplace. However, toxic behaviours are often not reported and unchecked in many workplaces.

It is common to believe that toxic behaviors are more common in large corporations with high levels of competition and accountability. However, many workers report that the same destructive culture can be found within smaller, less hierarchical organisations. How can we determine which workplaces are most prone to toxic behaviour? Are workers trapped in toxic workplaces if there is a chance for change?

Workplaces that are toxic

There is no one right way to define what makes a workplace toxic. However, there are key things you can look out for.

A toxic workplace is one where abusive behaviours are almost accepted, according to Thomas Roulet, professor of organisational theory at University of Cambridge Judge Business School. It’s about how people behave and how others are affected. A toxic workplace is often filled with political behavior by individuals who seek influence without considering the consequences for their coworkers.

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