November 7, 2019

The Ripple Effects of Toxic Work Environment

Toxic, abusive work environment is insidious.

Hiding under the surface – but very much alive – it’s spreading its tentacles.

Take a look:

An article [Fear is a Lousy Leader] I posted on LinkedIn has:

165,000+ reactions
3,300+ comments
187,000+ views
16,900+ reshares

About 90% of people that have viewed the article have reacted to it. 90%!

That’s not all:

Many have reached out to me privately. Many are not commenting, reacting, or resharing because they are afraid to do so.

Afraid of repercussions.
Afraid of getting fired.
Afraid of losing their jobs.

Fear is a lousy leader, yes. But fear is also an awful companion.

Walking on eggshells is no way to work. Working in a constant state of fear puts your health at risk.

Consider this scenario:

You are a recent hire. You have extensive experience. You are confident, and know your craft. You realize the boss is out to get you. Nothing you do is good enough. Tasks and projects are moving targets with more plot twists than in a great mystery novel. You start to question your sanity. Is it you?

You try to have a conversation with your boss to sort things out, only to be told there’s nothing you can do.

You feel pressure mounting.
Your productivity starts to suffer.
You experience anxiety, frustration, depression.
Fear has become your unwanted, constant companion.

You love your co-workers, and you love your job.
You respect the leadership.
You don’t want to quit.
You don’t want to get fired.

It’s not just you.
Your colleagues are in the firing line too.
The team bobs and weaves to avoid direct contact with the boss and hope to stay employed.

You are afraid to speak up.
Yet you can’t remain silent.

What do you do?

This is a real-life scenario that is playing out today.

Somebody is going through this very scenario right now.

What would you do?

Employees that can leave – leave.

But if leaving isn’t an option?


There are varying levels and types of toxicity – some may be manageable, others not.

You may be able to change departments, find a workaround or figure out a way to fly below the radar. Or you may be dealing with severe workplace abuse.

Do not tolerate abuse.

When you love your job, your co-workers, and don’t want to leave, doing nothing is NOT an option.

What can you do?

If you are the employee at the receiving end of bullying or abuse at work:

Document everything

Keep a record of conversations, phone calls.
Put things in writing when possible.

Confront politely

If possible – weigh your options – have a conversation with your boss. Use I statements. Don’t blame your boss or others. Keep your cool.

Take care of yourself

Exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep… – you know.

Reach out for help

Talk to a therapist
Talk to an attorney
Talk to a coach
Talk to the HR
Talk to the leadership

It’s not clear cut.

Each situation is different, and you need a gameplan that works the best for you.

If you talk to the leadership, or HR:
Create a plan, a strategy, and prepare.
Stay professional, confident, and keep calm.
Address the problem – not the person.
Don’t play the blame game.
Ask for advice.

For example:

“I’m having a difficult time dealing with X and am looking for some guidance or suggestions on how to improve the situation.”

The bottom line is:

You have a right to a peaceful, respectful, safe work environment.

If you are the leader – the executive, the director, C-suite, or the founder:

If you think there is no possibility of a toxic work environment in your organization – think again.

Do you have a high employee turnover?
Are you getting negative reviews online?
Is everybody quiet?
Is somebody reaching out to you (but you are ignoring them)?

Consider bringing in an unbiased, outside consultant to assess your workplace.


Business consultants don’t usually get called in to check for a toxic workplace.

You get called in for any and every other possible problem and situation. Most of the time, you run into it – if present – when you are digging in.

Sometimes the leadership prefers to excuse the behavior of a toxic manager or turn a blind eye. “He’s the best. We can’t afford to lose him.”

In reality, you can’t afford to keep him.

Bad managers/supervisors are one of the top reasons people quit their jobs.

If you are the boss or the manager:

Are you self-evaluating your performance?
Are you guiding, mentoring, and coaching your team?
Are you kind in your communications?
Does your team trust you?
Do you care?

The best thing each of us can do is to look into the mirror -regardless of where you are in the organization.

What can I do better?
How can I be better?

I don’t consider myself an expert in toxic workplace. I’m a strategist, coach and consultant. I’m addressing this topic because I’m running into it more and more – at an alarming rate.

I’m not an attorney and I’m not a therapist. If you need help and guidance in these matters seek help from the respective professionals.