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Blog Employee Experience

10 Signs Of A Toxic Workplace And Their Solution

Rinu Jaison

8 April 2024

7 min read

Why is it that Twitter employees can’t stop raving about the company’s amazing company culture – which includes rooftop meetings, paid lunches, yoga classes, and even unlimited vacation – while Amazon employees are weeping about the company’s culture? The answer is clear: a toxic workplace.

Happy workplace equals happy workforce. Click To Tweet

If you forget about your employees, you can forget about your company culture. Because we can all agree that money and other perks have their limits in inspiring true commitment. So in this blog, we will explore the signs of a toxic work environment – and the solution. 

10 Warning Signs of a Toxic Workplace + How Managers Can Solve Them

1. People No Longer Communicate Well

Imagine yourself as a newcomer to a work environment where people don’t joke, don’t smile, don’t communicate enough, and don’t even support one another. Would you want to be in such a negative work environment?

No. Chances are, you will never be happy.

workplace communication

The first sign of a toxic work culture is that there is no proper communication between management and the employees, or among the employees. After all, an employee needs to be heard, respected and recognized.

Solution: Create a space for the team to speak their minds freely, and share ideas. You can start with daily/weekly check-ins, AMA sessions, anonymous surveys, etc. and gradually progress to in-person feedback.

Did you know that SurveySparrow can help you automate all of your check-ins? Try it out with a free account.

2. Bad Habits That Get Contagious

Bad habits often spread from the top management to the entry-level employees.

If the boss is always late to work, employees might gather that it is okay to be late, and stop caring about being punctual. If the management isn’t strict about completing work on time, the procrastination spreads to the staff.

However, the employees’ bad tempers and tantrums, tardiness, carelessness, lack of cooperation, and general attitude provide valuable insights into the health of your company.

Solution: As a leader, it starts with you. Set an example for your employees that will motivate and encourage them.  Always remember that your leadership is the touchstone of the entire organization.

3. Unhealthy Competition And Rivalry

“Companies that solely focus on competition will die. Those that focus on value creation will thrive.”  – Edward de Bono

It is true that competition breeds champions. But too much competition will lead to high stress levels, burnout and turnover. This will not only result in the disruption of relationships but also in the escalation of selfishness, anger, distrust, and conflict. A recipe for disaster!

Solution: Teamwork is the first step towards a safe, trusting, and collaborative work environment. So have an employee recognition system that rewards co-workers for sharing information and resources freely. That said, there is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition!

4. Rampant groupism and gossip

There are two kinds of people who can contribute to a toxic workplace: The Gossip Mongers and the Cool Kids.

workplace gossip

Gossip is rampant in most workplaces. But office gossip diminishes the organization’s culture over time and amplifies negativity. If management does not control the situation, cliques eventually form, and they start to gossip about the company, their co-workers, and their managers. They will start trash-talking and bullying their colleagues and make life difficult for them.

There is another set of people called the ‘cool kids’ who always hang out together, have inside jokes, have lunch and take breaks together, and never invite anyone to join them. This can subtly make people who aren’t part of the clique feel ostracized at work.

Solution: In her blog ‘8 Ways to Break Groupism in Organizations‘, Jesal Shethna recommends hiring against type, and encouraging a diverse mix of people from different age groups, backgrounds and ethnicities. Moreover, have a policy in place that clearly lays down work communication etiquette.

Additionally, have a word with the frequent offenders. Ensure that they don’t repeat their mistake as they are often clueless about the intense damage they cause.

5. Employee Engagement Is At An All-Time Low

Engaged employees are usually more committed, hard-working, and productive.

But when the engagement decreases, it only goes on to show that your employees are not interested in their work or your company anymore. They even tend to avoid company events or functions, especially in a toxic workplace.

employee engagement

Every company wants their employees to be fully engaged. But how?

Solution: Your employees will tell you how. Run regular employee surveys to figure out areas where you lack, and get insights on what they expect from you. It could be anything ranging from better WFH policies, higher pay, more bean bags, a foosball table, a gym or yoga center.

Based on this feedback, you can refine your employee engagement policy. For example, a day where employees can bring their kids or pets to work.  Anything to make them stress-free, happy and engaged!

6. Assuming That Culture Is The Same As Perks

Many companies think they have the perfect company culture because they have an amazing recreation center and happy hours.

Yet, they fail to notice the group of people near the coffee machine, complaining about their workload and bad managers every morning.

workplace appreciation

True company culture is about what the company means to its employees. For that, employees need to feel appreciated and respected for their work. Moreover, millennial and Gen-Z employees want to work in an organization with a strong sense of purpose and values.

Employees who share those values are also the most motivated. Also, they are least likely to be tempted by a higher raise your competitor might offer!

Solution: Perks and performance incentives are not the same as culture. You can start building it by rewarding people for actions that reflect the company’s values.

These actions need not be linked to performance. They can include any action that goes above or beyond a job role; like sharing knowledge, taking time to mentor a junior colleague, taking the initiative to organize an event, etc.


In a study by Deloitte, 77% of Gen Z employees want to work for an organization with values that align with theirs.

7. Poor Management And Leadership

Do you dislike your boss? Does he or she treat you with disrespect and disdain? This shows that the company is being steered into a bad work environment.

Poor management and leadership skills can infect an entire organization. Moreover, it affects your company’s ability to retain employees, and lowers employee morale, motivation, and productivity.

Solution: Management needs to lead by example and create a positive work environment for employees to perform at their best. Use tools like 360 assessments to build the leadership that your company needs.

Management must always, always lead by example. Click To Tweet

8. Communication is a One-Way Street

In a toxic work environment, managers and employees tend to fall in two distinct groups that seldom interact. When they do interact, it’s a one-way communication in which the manager tells the employee what to do and what not to do.

In this toxic job, the employee is offered little or no room to convey their thoughts and ideas freely. There exists no give and take policy, and the employees feel that they are not treated fairly and with enough respect.

Solution: The first step to fix a problem is to recognize it exists. Next, take action – train your managers based on positive examples rather than a long list of “don’ts”.

Related: Looking to overhaul your management style? We have an appraisal format for that.

9. Productivity is Driven by Fear, Not Fun

Fear is the ultimate culture killer. It causes hesitation, drive stress, and holds your employees (and your organization) back from reaching their full potential.

While we’ve all encountered a manager or executive that makes Darth Vader look like a teddy bear, it’s not always a singular person or consequence that fosters fear.

workplace fear

So else drives fear?

  • Unclear communication on unrealistic expectations.
  • One-on-one conversations around correction rather than a celebration.
  • Focus on what top leaders want to hear rather than what they need to hear.
  • An employee recognition system that is only contingent on results – not a balance of results and behavior.

Solution: If your organization is driven by fear, it’s time to have those crucial conversations with leaders. Start looking for ways to incorporate fun and be energized by a mission.

10. Zero Team Spirit

Do you look around the office and see a sea of tired/sad faces? You are possibly in a toxic work environment.

Team spirit is vital in keeping the company culture alive. The lack of it can make the prospect of spending eight hours each day in the same environment very grim.

A good rapport among the team members will not only boost the morale but also the productivity. After all, the teams with a high spirit and strong sense of togetherness have better chances of success.

Solution: Try to bring your team together outside of work. Or even better, create spaces within work where they can relax and take a break. What’s more, encourage remote employees to connect with their team through virtual activities or offline meet-ups.

The employer should also reach out to the team and make genuine attempts to maintain team spirit.

Quoting Rick Federico:

You have to be at a place that’s more than a paycheck for people.”

In Summary: Getting Rid of A Toxic Workplace

Do you recognize some of these signs of a toxic workplace? If yes, then it’s time for your organization to tackle these red flags one by one, and create a healthy and collaborative work environment. But how?

The best way is to ensure that you and your employees are on the same page. Employee pulse surveys, employee check-ins, 360 appraisals – all of these are helpful tools that give insights on how to move forward.

Moreover, toxic work environments are a frequent cause for employees to leave. By conducting a timely exit interview, you can get honest feedback about the root cause of this environment.

Even if your work culture is affecting your business, always know that you can turn it around. Tools like SurveySparrow can help you track and improve your employee journeys with ease. Moreover, you can monitor diverse aspect of your work culture, take steps to enforce better work policies, and make wiser decisions.

Remember, you wouldn’t want to spend 40+ hours a week at a toxic workplace. Nor should your employees!

Rinu Jaison

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

Avid Blogger. Ardent Conversationalist. Ambitious. Affable. As happy as a clam

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