At this point, most people have heard that we are in the middle of a Great Resignation. What does it mean? People in the United States are quitting their jobs faster than ever before. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in 2021, more than 24 million Americans left their jobs between April and September.
Of course, it’s safe to assume that the COVID-19 pandemic was the major factor at play during this period, but the data tells a different story. People didn’t simply leave their jobs because they wanted to be home during uncertain times. They were fleeing toxic workplaces.
According to data collected by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Sloan Management Review, “A toxic corporate culture is 10.4 times more powerful than compensation in predicting a company’s attrition rate compared with its industry.”
Toxic workplace culture was followed by job security and reorganization, high levels of innovation, failure to recognize employee performance, and poor response to COVID-19.
The Effects of Toxic Workplace Culture
Toxic workplace culture is often described as disrespectful, noninclusive, unethical, cutthroat, and abusive. Obviously, a workplace culture with these attributes will contribute to employee pain and suffering. Research shows that toxic workplaces have high rates of stress, burnout, and mental health issues. Additionally, employees who spend many years working in a toxic workplace are 20% more likely to develop a major disease, such as coronary disease, asthma, diabetes, and arthritis, than employees who work in a healthy workplace.
Toxic workplace culture also affects an organization’s bottom line. According to the study The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture: How Culture Impacts the Workforce — and the Bottom Line, toxic workplace culture affects U.S. employers’ bottom line by more than $50 billion per year.
For example, employees that have healthcare through their employer are going to utilize their health benefits when they feel unwell. In 2008, it was estimated that toxic workplaces spend nearly $16 billion per year on employee health care costs.
Moreover, one study found that “ostracism, incivility, harassment, and bullying have direct negative significant effects on job productivity, while job burnout was shown to be a statistical significant mediator between the dimensions of a toxic workplace environment and job productivity.” Therefore, toxic workplaces increasingly hurt an organization’s bottom line by stifling productivity.
Creating a Healthier Workplace
Creating a healthier workplace is beneficial for both employees and organizations. Employees will be happier and healthier, organizations will save a significant amount of money on healthcare costs, and everyone can operate in an environment that encourages productivity.
The very first step to detoxing any workplace is to recognize that it exists. It’s important to realize that everyone doesn’t experience workplace toxicity the same way – there may be people in an organization who are perfectly happy while others feel less than. For example, women, people of color, and older employees may experience toxic workplace culture more than other groups of people.
Creating a healthier workplace isn’t usually something that can be tackled in a single meeting or presentation. It is a lifelong process that requires compassion, empathy, and honest communication. It can be done if everyone from the CEO to the newest hire dedicates themselves to working toward a healthier, more inclusive workplace.