Toxic Work Environments

Posted on October 9, 2012 by Katherine Razzi


When you get a new job the hope of course is that the environment will be positive. Taking a job with a new organization is a big investment as an employee for one’s career and one’s well-being. I always remind friends and family that are interviewing for jobs that the interview is just as much the organization interviewing them as it is an opportunity for them to interview the organization and decide if it will be a good fit and somewhere they will be happy and succeed.

Toxic work environments are one of the most challenging places to work. Some times it is hard to pinpoint what is causing the work environment to be an unwelcoming place, while other times it is easy to pinpoint the cause to a particular employee or group of employees.

A single employee can create a work environment that is unpleasant. All it takes is one person who fails to be a team player or has a personality that is hard to get along with and a work environment may fall apart. I’m sure we can all think of a person that has created this feeling of tension at work. The problem intensifies when the toxic individual is in a position of power such as a manager or supervisor. The workgroup can significantly be damaged.

Groups of toxic employees are another common problem faced in the workplace. As human beings, we tend to associate ourselves with people who think similarly to us. We do this with relationships with each other and also at work. The problem occurs when individual toxic employees group themselves together. For example, if one employee constantly feels negatively about work and the organization and begins talking to another toxic employee, the two may form a toxic group. There is strength in numbers and as groups of toxic employees grow, the work environment can be severely damaged the attitude that spreads throughout the organization.

Have you experienced a toxic work environment? How did you deal with the situation?

About Katherine Razzi

Katherine Razzi hails from the Midwest and holds a B.A. in Applied Behavioral Science from National-Louis University, Evanston Campus. Coursework in cultural diversity, management, organizational dynamics, morals and ethics, group interaction, and psychology.

What Others Are Saying

  1. Katherine Razzi October 12, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Hi Gail – Good blog. I’m pretty confident to say that this has been an issue for decades.
    What would you say is a solution to this situation? Fire the “toxic” employee or “toxic” group of employees? Why was such a person hired from the onset? Most toxic people weren’t always that way – especially upon hire. Something must have driven them to become negative or disgruntled. While every situation is unique, especially when we are dealing with people, I’d give these “toxins” the benefit of the doubt and try to get to the root cause of their behavior. If spoken to by their manager and problems are left unresolved, it is indeed an indicator to delve deeper into the crux of the matter.

    There are some very talented toxins out there that I think employers would really hate to dismiss if their absence adversely affected the organization. But what are employers to do? Continue to let these toxins infect the rest of the company? This is where I strongly recommend that a company who is suffering from this dilemma get onboard with an employee survey – or even a pulse survey. After the survey data is compiled into reports, problem areas identified, and action plans set in place, an employer or HR professional can be confident in their plans to remedy the situation.

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