Why Are So Many Workplace Environments Toxic And Miserable? (Explained!)

Spread the Love!
Why Are So Many Workplace Environments Toxic And Miserable?

Do you ever ask yourself why are so many workplace environments toxic and miserable? The question was posed to us recently in a workshop and led to an insightful discussion.

When you consider that it is people like you and me who make up the employee population, it does make you wonder, doesn’t it?

Are our lives so bad that we have to let loose in our workspaces?

Or are our work environments making us toxic and miserable?

This article will help you to answer those questions.

Why Are So Many Workplace Environments Toxic And Miserable?

Many workplace environments are toxic and miserable because, at the end of the day, employees are human beings who do not leave their personal issues, needs and wants at the office’s front door. That may sound simple but it is at the heart of what makes a workplace environment what it is. Any environment is a collective reflection of everyone in it and a workspace is no different.

There is always the tendency to “blame management” or “leadership” for unhealthy work environments. However, “management” and “leadership” are collective human groups with their own fears, egos, goals and ambitions.

Some members of management or leadership enjoy their roles and others do not. Some have been trained or made the effort to understand what the roles demand of them. Many do not.

There is no justification for maintaining a toxic and miserable workplace but there are lessons that can help you be a more effective employee, manager and leader.

Let’s explore a few.

Unhealthy Communication

Communication is the glue that holds all relationships together or shatters them altogether. Many people get this wrong from the start and never recover from the damage caused.

You know the saying, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Especially today, with technology allowing us only seconds at a time to showcase ourselves, communication is getting harder, not easier.

Experiences are shared faster now and are made permanent by the use of devices that seem to hide under our feet. Everything is in the public domain in real-time. Sharing makes it permanent and proof in case anyone forgets or did not get the information live.

READ ABOUT A MORE EFFECTIVE WAY TO COMMUNICATE >>>> How Can Congruent Communication Be Achieved?

Gossiping And Perceptions

According to Professor Geoffrey Beattie from Edge Hill University in Lancashire, United Kingdom, “The point about gossip is, the best gossip is juicy gossip – the last thing people are worried about is whether it is true or not.” 

Perceptions and gossip help to fuel unhealthy communication, especially in fishbowl environments such as a work environment. It is much easier, and faster, to get messages flowing through the pipeline. As they flow, hit rocks and turns, they change until they no longer reflect the initial meaning or intent.

The effects of this can be damaging to an environment’s culture and the people who reside in it.

ADDITIONAL READING >>>> Fake News ‘Travels Faster’, Study Finds (BBC)

Nepotism And Favouritism

The greatest part of the wealth in the United States of America (USA) resides in family-owned businesses. The USA Census Bureau reports that family firms account for ninety (90) percent of all business enterprises in North America.

Family business owners and influencers do not transfer their financial wealth only. They transfer their values, management models, leadership styles and cultures as well. This often has an adverse effect on non-family employees who find it hard to progress within the company.

The United States is not alone.

In 2020, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Family Entrepreneurship Report produced and released by Babson College, stated that seventy-five (75) percent of entrepreneurs and eighty-one (81) percent of established business owners co-own and/or co-manage their businesses with family members. Additionally, sixty-two (62) percent of established business owners stated that the majority of their current employees were members of their family.

That leaves little room for the favouritism that is often played out in organisations. People do business with (and hire) people they know and like. 

If unhealthy behaviours, attitudes and communication are encouraged and added to a workplace environment it becomes more toxic and miserable as time goes on.

READY TO LEAVE? >>>> How To Leave A Toxic Work Environment – Without Drama?

Lack Of Recognition

A lack of recognition is one of the “drips” that slowly erodes employee engagement. If it is not addressed, the drip eventually creates a hole that is too large to fill. Sometimes, the bottom is eaten away so it really does not matter what goes into the whole anyway.

I always share that this is one of the lowest-hanging fruits you can pick in a company’s culture.

A simple “Hello!” or “Good morning!” goes a long way and helps to make an employee feel seen and wanted. Taking that one step further to ask: “How are you?” is icing on the cake.

It must be congruent and you must be grounded in the present and allow time to pay attention to what is being said – and not.

We are emotional beings and enjoy being recognised for our efforts and accomplishments. This can be an effective killer of misery.

READ FURTHER >>>> What Is Congruent Behaviour?

Unclear Opportunities

Over the years, I have managed hundreds of Performance Management assessments, interventions and conversations. There is one common thread that always surfaces and resonates – a lack of transparency.

Time and time again, there is a need to put things on pause and work through incongruent behaviours with all Stakeholders using Role Development, anchored in empathy and attention in dialogue.

Most employees see Performance Management as a tightly guarded tool owned by the organisation’s gatekeepers to keep them away from growth, progress and meaningful opportunities.

It is clouded in mystery and lacks transparency and simplicity in many organisations.

This creates distrust and fuels the already toxic and miserable behaviours that are played out.

Closing Thoughts . . . 

The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) in the USA, estimates that 1 in 5 employees have left a job at some point in their career because of a toxic culture.

In over 30 years, as I worked my way up and across the Corporate Ladder, in many organisations and around the world, I found many workplace environments that were toxic and miserable.

It was my encounters with these environments that led me to start my own Management Consulting Firm in New Zealand in 1996. I can safely say that our work environments, although not perfect, are highly engaging and enjoyable.

Most of your waking life will be spent working. I am of the opinion that you should make your experiences during that time as rewarding and enjoyable as you possibly can.

Life is way too short not to.

Please Share Your Feedback

We spend a lot of time communicating with our audience, listening to the feedback shared and researching content to answer the questions that are asked.

If there is any feedback you have for us, do let us know in the comments below. We would love to hear from you.

To receive communication and publications from us, do make sure that you subscribe to our Mailing List.

We also host retreats, workshops and online events. Joining our Mailing List is the best way to hear about these first-hand.

Thank you for reading our content!

About The Author

Cassandra is a Management Consultant, Internationally qualified Facilitator, Coach, Strategist and Behaviour Change Agent. She enjoys travelling, exploring cultures and learning about historical and social networks and dynamics.

Her driving force is the education and development of her tween daughter. The roots of her inspiration to diversify her niche markets and the motivation to expand and scale her business investments rest firmly in this relationship.

This is the reason for creating her legacy.

Leave a comment