Toxic Attitudes in the Workplace


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Having a negative atmosphere in your work environment can bring everyone down, damaging productivity and even driving your top talent out the door.

Article 4 Minutes
Toxic Attitudes in the Workplace

It can be difficult to maintain a positive atmosphere at work. There are plenty of reasons why people may be stressed, tired or even upset at the office and there's only so much an employer can do to counteract this. However, a toxic environment is quite different.

Having employees who bring toxicity to the workplace can quickly bring down the rest of the team, harming productivity and even the relationship between employee and employer. If this situation is allowed to continue, it can easily fester and become something more serious. People spend most of their waking hours at work and so if they aren't getting a supportive and productive workplace you may find your star talent starts looking elsewhere.

Company culture is such an important part of the working environment now that you can't afford to be complacent about toxic attitudes in your workplace. But what should you be doing about it?


Most people have had that morning when everything goes wrong. Your alarm doesn't go off, or you switch it off and doze right back off, you can't find your keys, and the traffic is a nightmare. The result? You're late for work and the pressure is on for the rest of the day to catch up on the time you missed. However, if employees are consistently turning up late in the morning or after lunch, it could be a sign that they don't have the right attitude.

Of course, it may be that they have something going on in their personal life that is making arriving on time more difficult, but it's important that you find out the cause. Talk to their manager and arrange a time to chat with them about the situation and identify ways that they can resolve the issue.

Vocal criticism

There is nothing wrong with voicing concerns as an employee, but it needs to be done in a constructive manner. If you have just one or two people on a team that are vocally slating the company - or specific colleagues - around others, it's a sign that they aren't engaged with the business or its goals. This can lead to them breeding a toxic environment around them.

It's important that managers take a proactive approach and don't allow negative feelings to impact productivity.

Inappropriate behavior

From telling sexist, homophobic or just plain offensive jokes to undermine colleagues, inappropriate behavior can quickly escalate into more troublesome situations. It can also be something more low-key, like interfering with projects or trying to have the final say on discussions outside of their remit.

These sort of actions won't just make other employees feel uncomfortable or even unwelcome but can also start to affect how people view you as an employer. This could have a long-term impact on your ability to recruit the right talent and keep your most valued staff.


If you want to achieve the wider business goals, every employee needs to be working towards them and this is why disengagement can be so damaging to a company. Whether it's not contributing to brainstorms, staring into space during meetings or just generally complaining when it comes to their workload, this toxic behavior can have a massive impact on the business as a whole.

It can be difficult to resolve these problems but ignoring them is only going to make them worse. Management teams can be essential in communicating with disengaged individuals and finding out ways to bring them back into the fold.


Of course you want employees to be ambitious and driven but if this is coming at the expense of their colleagues, then it's time to take action. People that constantly steal credit from others or look to shift the blame as soon as something goes wrong aren't the type of professionals you want in your company.

Managers will need to make it clear that they are part of a team and they are only as good as the people around them. Instead of trying to stand out, they should be trying to support and guide their colleagues, as well as learn from them to develop their own skills. Employees that refuse to listen to anyone else or admit that they might be wrong about something can lead to an incredibly toxic environment for everyone else.

Insights for Professionals provide free access to the latest thought leadership from global brands. We deliver subscriber value by creating and gathering specialist content for senior professionals. To view more HR content, click here.

HR Insights for Professionals

Insights for Professionals provide free access to the latest thought leadership from global brands. We deliver subscriber value by creating and gathering specialist content for senior professionals.


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