A TOXIC work environment is one where employees find it difficult to work or progress in their careers due to the negative atmosphere created by co-workers, supervisors, or the company culture itself. Toxicity at the workplace can create negative results, illness, high turnover, and even abusive behaviour among employees. A toxic workplace defines a situation where organisational problems also affect employee motivation, hence affecting performance and productivity. Here are some common toxic work environment characteristics and how they demotivate employees.

Unclear goals and no transparency

Goals make a company move forward. When everyone knows the company’s goals, as well as the smaller, individual goals, employees will know how they contribute to the big picture of the company which then will help them to become productive and happy. Every workplace benefits from full transparency and in that way, employees will feel that their contribution will actually makes a difference. A toxic workplace doesn’t have clear goals or it has long forgotten about them a long in exchange for chasing financial gain only. The danger of this is that it will lead employees to feel they are lost in their career path or they are stagnant and being underutilised. 

Bad bosses can create toxicity

Managers need to be self-aware to avoid contributing to a toxic work environment. It’s known everywhere that employees will work hard when their bosses are great leaders with clear visions and enviable work ethics. When managers are insincere and seem not to really know what they are doing, the ground will always suffer. That is also the same reason why employees don’t leave organisations but bad bosses. It’s a fact that companies cannot be successful if they are managed and run by unskilled people. 

Communication is one-way only in a toxic environment

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A key sign of a toxic work culture is that communication normally flows one way; as directives from the higher ups to the employees. 

Employees are afraid to ask questions either because they will be singled out for not understanding quickly enough or nothing will be done. In a toxic environment, communication is never a two-way street. It is used as a tool to assert dominance. A healthy environment supports open, assertive communication. Proper communication is based on an understanding of previously-mentioned roles, goals, attitudes, and beliefs. Knowing the roles and hierarchy of each person helps achieve better results.

Decision making is top-down only

In a healthy work environment, decisions are made together, with input from all concerned parties. In order for an organisation to run smoothly, decisions must constantly be made and how those decisions are made is an important factor in the success of a decision. The leader of an organisation must decide whether to take full control of the decision-making process or to allow input from other employees when making decisions. In a toxic work environment, there is no consensus on how to solve a problem. When a decision comes from a higher-up, without the input or consultation of their peers (who could understand the situation better) it hinders innovation as employees fear expressing themselves. This leads to bottled up frustrations that can cause loss of focus and a drop in productivity.

Micromanaging breeds toxicity

Engaging employees in all stages and running of the company is very crucial as it will remove a feeling of being left out or that they are irrelevant. In each and every time, the employees who are hired to perform various duties at workplaces should feel their relevance. 

Most managers have got a problem of micro-managing their employees, they think that constantly checking on employees’ work and dictating how everything will help companies to move forward. Micromanaging people decreases productivity and work quality. 

Employees will feel paralysed to make decisions independently even if the decisions are good. At its core, micromanagement can turn high-performing employees into disengaged workers. This lowers productivity and creates a negative environment where workers just want to get by.

Trust is limited

A lack of trust in the workplace is the virus that can create a diseased workplace culture. 

Trust is one of the core foundations of a successful organisation. But in a toxic working environment, trust is perceived as something that needs to be earned rather than provided. 

Equally, a lack of trust in an employer might be evident through the absence of open discussion in meetings. In this regard the staff may not feel that their contributions are respected and as a result, stay silent on key issues that can even affect organisations sometimes. The workplace can’t and won’t survive without trust — it’s reciprocal, key for employee loyalty and minimising employee turnover rates.

Favoritism and office politics

Nobody wants to be in a company where the boss plays favorites. It’s good if you are the favorite employee, but not good for everybody else. Maybe the reason why your employees refuse to follow your instructions is that they know you will not appreciate them in the end. True, we cannot avoid having star employees because of their effort, skill and wit. But the fact of the matter is they aren’t the only employees in your organisation. As a leader, you have to give everyone the same treatment. A strict rule imposed upon one employee must therefore be enforced on another committing the same offense.

Mismatched job responsibilities 

Having mismatch functions is a ticking time bomb, even with star players on your team, they will be demotivated and obviously productivity will be affected. When a manager is given roles and responsibilities of an officer or clerical work then it is a clear indication of function mismatch and that is a good recipe for killing employee motivation and morale. It is natural for someone to dislike a job if it requires him to do something he has not been trained to do. When there is a mismatch of function, not only will the company get low quality output, but also a very disgruntled employee. 

Toxicity also has a dire impact on your business: Many employees agree with me that their decrease in the quality of their work in a toxic work environment as they will have taken their frustration out on customers. To those who resign it’s not only about poor salaries sometimes it about toxic workplace environments. -Emmanuel Zvada is a human capital consultant and international recruitment expert