You need to get out from that toxic work environment – I

Last week a close friend called to say he has decided to move out of his current role. I was puzzled. He was doing extremely well. He was well known in his field and honestly, he was at the top of the game. Why change now?

‘I have had enough of a toxic manager and my mental wellbeing is taking a toll. I seriously need to shift gears.’

‘What made you stay so long then?’

‘I thought things would improve but when I realised they would not, I wanted to change. Then I remembered my CV is already dotted with some short stints and it gives the impression that I am job hopping. So, I decided to stick it out for a reasonable period of time.’

How many of us continue to stay in toxic work environment just because a short stint would not look good in our resume and/or may be misconstrued by hiring managers as ‘instability in holding jobs?’

What matters in the long run is our own emotional and mental wellbeing. Yes, long run matters. Not the short-term perspective that we hold that let us endure for one more day….

The thought of changing jobs and then not being able to find one can be petrifying for many. Not everyone is financially sound to be able to weather uncertainties. The vagaries of job hunting can be emotionally very exhausting. At the same time, continuing to stay in a toxic work environment can be equally draining.

The many signs of a toxic workplace

Research conducted by MIT Sloan to identify the top predictors for attrition that escalated a couple of years ago, it was found that employees were 10.4 times more likely to leave their jobs because of toxic work culture than to leave because of the salaries they were earning. Healthy workplace environment had a far greater value than money!

A workplace is like second home to employees. When employees spend more than 40 hours a week in their workplace, they are profoundly impacted by the work culture that exists within the organisation. A toxic work environment can quickly lead to a disengaged workforce and drastic drop in productivity.

According to Dimitris Tsingos, President of Epignosis and Co-founder of TalentLMS, “A toxic workplace is one where employees don’t feel valued, respected, or supported.” This can lead to stress, erosion of trust, miscommunication between colleagues, and little opportunity for growth or development.

Here are some examples of how a toxic workplace looks like:

“I work for a large MNC and often need to interact with senior management. I draft their quotes for press releases and coordinate with them for their social media posts. Whenever I present to them the work done, they come back to me with multiple iterations. At each step I am made to feel that my work is not good enough, and it needs to be changed. This has impacted me a lot emotionally and I feel completely drained off.”

“Each time I present my work to my client, I have to be super careful with my words. My client expects me to work 24×7 and it is as though I have to be at their beck and call. There is absolutely no respect for weekends. My wife and daughter are upset with me because I am unable to give them time. But my agency wants me to ensure my client is happy with my work. How do I ever balance things out here?”

It is well documented that a toxic workplace environment leads to increased levels of stress, mental burnout, low morale and loss of productivity. In fact, disengaged teams are almost 20% less productive. According to a recent Human Workplace Index (HWI) survey, 34% of survey participants voluntarily left their jobs during the pandemic. Of that 34%, as many as 28% cited mental health and a toxic workplace culture as their reason for leaving.

Employees understand the impact a work culture can have on their lives. Organisations need to accordingly ensure they provide the right environment for their people.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Country Group Head CSR at Bayer - South Asia
Sarita Bahl leads the Corporate Social Responsibility function for Bayer South Asia and is also the Director – Bayer Prayas Association. Prior to this, she successfully oversaw the communications and public affairs function for Bayer South Asia. Over her three decades of professional experience, Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, public sector, trade associations, MNCs and the Not-for-profit sector. An alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Science and the Swedish Institute of Management Program, Sarita specializes in stakeholder engagement, sustainability and communications. She is passionate about animals (is mother to a female cat), books and movies.

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