There are few things worse than finding yourself in a toxic work culture.
Anybody who has experienced it knows just how draining, exhausting and counterproductive such an environment can be.
The signs that your workplace has fallen victim to such a corrosive culture are not always as obvious as you might think.
Whilst some might be straightforward enough – a boss who yells, screams, singles out staff members unfairly and changes their mind at a moment’s notice – others are more nuanced.
Communication is often poor or inconsistent, sickness rates might increase as staff find reasons to stay away, work slows down and projects start to run over time as employees become more and more reluctant to take decisions which could be ripped apart, morale begins to sink and colleagues split into different cliques as they start to protect their own positions.
And often your line managers are either powerless to do much about it because they fear the boss just as much as you do, or they are just figureheads with no power to change things or are the source of the problem in the first place.
This is all bad for the business and bad for employees like you.
Our culture puts an extremely high value on work. We are taught from an early age that earning a living, working with others and contributing to society are key parts of a fulfilling life.
To have that taken away by a toxic culture at the place where we spend the majority of our waking hours can be incredibly tough.
So if you are an employee caught up int his culture, what can you do to protect yourself?
The first thing is not to just hang around hoping things will get better all by themselves. If the company is unwilling to address the situation, there are still steps you can take to protect yourself from the psychological harm such workplaces often bring.
Firstly, be aware of your rights. No boss has the power to flout the law – either in terms of working time, discrimination, bullying, health and safety or issues such as holiday time.
If you see examples of misconduct which clearly breach these laws, use channels such as HR, your union rep or work councils to hold management to account.
It’s a good idea to keep a good record of evidence to support your position. If you think a manager is bullying you, keep a list of the occasions, what was said and done and how it happened, so that you can demonstrate your concerns. Similarly, if you are asked to work in a way you feel is unsafe – for example in a non Covid-secure environment – detail the requests. By taking responsibility you are taking an element of control back for your own situation.
If you work in an environment without HR support, consider taking external advice. Our door is always open to discuss any employment matters and offer independent, impartial advice to help you through a tough situation.
If the issue is localised rather than company-wide, or restricted to a single department, consider a switch of jobs within the company – but also think about how you could make senior management take action to resolve the issues. Again, if you don’t have an effective HR function at your work, we can suggest ways to do this.
There is some evidence emerging that the move to remote working is leaving employees feeling more vulnerable to toxic workplaces. We can feel the support structure which is often in place at work has been stripped away and we are being exposed more often to the source of the problem with less help at hand.
And of course, the ultimate solution is to find somewhere different to work – though this can be a heartbreaking and difficult decision to make if you have worked at your current job for some time or have always previously enjoyed it.
No job is worth losing your health and wellbeing over. If you find yourself in this situation and need help we are here for you. Just click the button to start the ball rolling.