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Multigenerational workforce

What causes a toxic work environment? It is not just a management issue


October 12, 2022


June 16, 2023

According to a US study from Wayne Jonas about the practice of self-care after the pandemic, 64% of Americans reported being focused on their mental health more than ever before. This figure is not surprising. People tend to pay more attention to their physical and mental health and be more aligned with their values in their private and professional lives. Unfortunately, our jobs don't always fulfil our expectations. They can even trigger unhappiness and a real lack of satisfaction.. Sometimes it is not the job but the company that creates this feeling. Worse, other employees can also be a source of  anxiety. So what causes a toxic work environment

Poor management often appears at the top of the list of explanations for employee dissatisfaction. Still, there are many other reasons for toxic work culture. A lack of solid core values, recognition, or fairness also have an effect. Putting people first and enabling a healthy work environment are among the main objectives for deskbird. For this reason, we dug into this topic to give you a clear understanding of what can trigger a toxic atmosphere at work. Hopefully, this article will help you spot these negative behaviors and make the right decisions to foster employee well-being and success for your business. 

Woman at laptop with head in her hands
Employee in a toxic work culture

Bad management: a key factor of employee dissatisfaction and turnover


There are many ways in which your leadership style can also create a poor working environment without you necessarily being aware of it. Micromanagement is a classic example of toxic management. It is known for being one of the most counterproductive approaches to making your workers succeed. On one side, it makes them feel they are constantly watched and not trusted, on the other side, it consequently decreases their productivity and engagement.

A bad relationship between management and employees

Nothing is worse than not being able to express oneself or being limited in actions. Unfortunately, this happens when coworkers don’t have a relationship based on trust with their manager. If employees are not engaged in their jobs or afraid to share their thoughts, they stick with the way things have always been done, even if it makes them miserable. It is toxic for their mental health but also harms your business. Building a reliable connection with your team encourages them to share their ideas and take more initiative.

Unfairness and lack of opportunities

Favoritism always results in a toxic work atmosphere. Not giving the chance to your staff to evolve professionally or being unfair regarding career opportunities strongly affects the way your workforce feels. What is the point of working hard if this is not noticed and rewarded? There is none; this is how burnout begins, and employee turnover rises.

👉 Start a free trial of the deskbird app and let your flexible workforce discover the benefits of office planner and employee hybrid schedule!

Wrong recruitment: workers can also be what causes a toxic work environment

Managers can be part of what causes a toxic work environment. However, your staff can also represent a source of stress for some people. Here are a few employees’ behaviors that cause a toxic work environment. 

Lack of common values

Have you ever started working with a new team member and realized they don’t share the same values and the ideas you and the company are trying to spread? Strong core values are an essential aspect of an organization, especially social ones. But to make them relevant, they need to be followed. If your new hires don’t have similar visions and values, it can foster a very unhealthy environment. 


Did you think you left the gossiping behaviors in high school? Unfortunately not. Some people can’t help but talk about others, including their colleagues. It is ok to share when it is to share positive thoughts about them for their benefit. However, when it comes to badmouthing coworkers, it can quickly result in a very hostile working atmosphere. Trust among team members does not exist anymore, and forms of bullying can occur. 

Lack of altruism and selfishness 

Being able to count on each other is fundamental for your employees and can also positively impact your business. Helping each other in periods of intense workload or tackling an issue together is key. Workers that evolve in an environment where people only think about themselves have more chances to feel lonely and disconnected from the team and the workplace. Sharing knowledge and supporting each other is crucial to create a positive and healthy work environment.

Spreading negativity

Some people tend to complain more than others. We will not tell you that you should have only coworkers that are always happy and never complain because it is unrealistic. On top of that, your workers sharing their opinion when they believe something is wrong is essential. Yet, there is a difference between making constructive feedback and spreading negativity in the workplace. One lifts your team and the company, and the other drives it down.

👉 Are tensions often rising over your employees’ timetables? Discover how to solve scheduling conflicts and keep your team happy!

Two people in corner speaking about man in front of them
Co-workers gossiping about each other.

Poor corporate culture: focus on positivity and employee centricity

People-focused culture

There is a big difference between companies building a corporate culture with an employee-centric approach and organizations focusing more on the outcomes. How can you expect successful results if your workforce is unhappy and unsatisfied? It is simply impossible. The fact of not being listened to, recognized, supported, or cared about, has an impact on workers’ engagement and motivation. You can read our article regarding culture in the workplace to learn more about it.

Workplace connection

As we explained in a recent article, workplace connection fosters employee happiness. Without connections to the work environment (colleagues, company, or the job itself), negative feelings can start to rise as people don’t experience a sense of belonging. They begin to wonder: “what am I doing here? What motivates me to continue doing this job? Why do I allow people to treat me this way?”. Creating solutions to boost workplace connection is therefore very important to avoid the growth of a toxic atmosphere.  

Positive workplace culture

Our jobs play a crucial part in our lives. For this reason, it should bring us more than just a financial means. Multigenerational workforces, especially Millennials and Gen Z, expect to create solid relationships and have a meaningful impact at work. So how much time and effort do you put into creating a positive workplace culture? Letting your organizational culture develop without guidance could result in toxic work culture. It is crucial that you a company’s culture according to your vision. However, it requires effort.

👉 How do you manage your workspace with a flexible workforce? Check out our hybrid office calculator to discover how you can optimize the space and save costs!

Group of people discussing presentation
Co-workers collaborating in positive workplace culture.

Lack of good communication: an essential aspect from top to bottom

The impact of unclear communication

How frustrating is it to redo a task because the instructions were confusing? It is the same for your employees. Unclear communication leads to mistakes, then to a waste of time, and then to a loss of motivation. Your team will become annoyed and frustrated if you don’t explain what you expect from them and what the next steps are. In the long run, this will seriously impact their engagement and productivity. 

A need for more transparency

You must work with your team to achieve your goals and make your company thrive. The goal isn’t just to tell them what to do. A company isn't functioning properly if employees are excluded from company discussions and don't know what's happening. As a result, they feel excluded and worthless. Employees play an essential role in the business's success. Not learning the difficulties, positive news, and upcoming projects create an atmosphere of insecurity among the workforce. It also refrains them from being connected to the workplace. 

Absence of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI): giving the same chances to all

Lack of social values

Focusing on people is an essential aspect of today’s workforce, especially younger generations of workers. Seeing unfair practices which go against their social values impacts their level of satisfaction. They don’t want to be part of it. On one hand, Millennials will then look for a company that focuses on positive values and matches their expectations better. On the other hand, Zoomers (Gen Z) are looking for stability at the beginning of their career. For this reason, they are more eager to stay but they won’t be happy with their work environment. This can potentially increase disengagement and even burnout in the workplace.

👉 Read our article about burnout statistics to know about the impact of work depression in the workplace!

Unequal career opportunities

Do everyone have the same career opportunities? Do minorities feel included and have the same professional development as other team members? This is a critical topic and a core pillar of HR strategies. However, this is not always the case and it can cause frustration, exclusion, and tension in the workplace. Inequality impacts minorities and all workers who value diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The role of leadership

Again, managers play an important role in sharing and implementing DEI policies within the company. They need to be an example and their leadership should reflect these values. Managers should show every team member recognition, fairness, respect, and trust. People who are not treated the same way as the rest of their colleagues feel excluded and devalued. In addition,  McKinsey’s survey indicates that black workers still lack trust in their companies.

Neglecting of work-life balance: one of the top reasons for a toxic work culture

The lack of flexibility

The COVID-19 lockdowns have proved that working from home while being as productive as on-site is possible. Even though most employees wish to be able to come to the office from time to time, they don’t want to be on-site every day of the week either. Juggling between personal and professional is not always easy but crucial to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The lack of flexibility in the workplace can seriously decrease an employee's work-life balance. Therefore, not listening to your employees’ expectations regarding hybrid work opportunities can foster negative feelings toward the workplace. 

👉 Want to learn more about work flexibility? Read our article regarding flexitime and hybrid work!

Stress at work

Being overwhelmed with work is never a good sign and impacts your personal life too. The reasons why your workforce is under a heavy workload can vary. Sometimes it is caused by an insufficient organization, poor prioritization, or unrealistic goals and deadlines. Your team ends up working extra hours, not knowing where to start, losing productivity, and being highly stressed. This is a classic consequence of a toxic environment. To avoid this situation, you need to support your employees, help them structure their tasks, and share the workload evenly.

No work boundaries 

Are your team members staying extra hours after work to finish their tasks? Are your remote employees often connected more than they are supposed to? Having unclear working time boundaries can result in a lot of stress and fatigue for your workforce. Managers must pay attention to coworkers that refuse to leave until the work is complete. The same goes for staff who feel the need to always be available because they work from home and want to prove they are working as hard as they should. A good leader encourages them to respect their work and resting hours. Letting them work more than they should so they finish their tasks is the opposite of creating a positive and people-centric work environment.

Woman at laptop with head in her hands
Woman stressed at work.

As you can see, many aspects are part of what causes a toxic work environment. All of them harm your employee morale and can be the reasons for toxic work culture. The key to preventing this situation from happening in your organization mainly depends on how employee-focused you are. Maintaining a positive and healthy atmosphere requires collaborating with people who share your values, remaining human and understanding, and spotting toxic behaviors.

Is your team asking for more flexibility?  Request a demo of the deskbird app to discover a user-friendly solution for desk booking and hybrid schedules!

What causes a toxic work environment? It is not just a management issue

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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