Some SHOCKING STATS About Toxic Work Cultures

by Feb 3, 2021

According to the Society for Human Resources Management’s (SHRM) 2019 literature review on the costs of toxic workplace cultures and the benefits of positive cultures, more than 85% of American workers who say their organization has a strong workplace culture admit they talk positively to others about it outside of work. 

As an expert in creating positive work cultures, I thought it is my duty to share some of these alarming statistics with you. And to put them in perspective, I thought I’d share my personal case study.

You may already know that I became interested in toxic workplaces given my own experiences. I worked with someone I would describe as a bully, and after five years of putting up with him and my boss not standing up for me or others, I was let go because my performance had suffered. 

Admittedly, I was barely doing anything of use when I was at work, and I was often coming in late and leaving early. My loyalty to the organization suffered as I felt it didn’t care about me, so why should I care about it.

I also spent a bunch of time in another director’s office venting, and over the course of five years the amount of time I spent with her increased exponentially. I guess I was in her office roughly 3-5 hours a week just to vent. 

I also spent a lot of time dealing with the turnover caused by this individual’s behavior, including recruiting, hiring, and training new people regularly. I spent time counseling others who were coming to me, HR, to file complaints and get my help. Really, the list of things I wasted time on goes on, but you get the idea.

Over the years as a consultant, I’ve come to see just how common my experience was and is. It kills me to think of all that wasted time there in my scenario so long ago… all that I and others cost the organization as a result of how we were treated. So the stats below ring true for me, and probably anyone who’s experienced a toxic environment. 

The research study is a good read – definitely worth a download. For now, here are just some of the costs outlined in the study. 

The cost of turnover due to workplace culture is $223 billion in the past 5 years. When I think of my story above, this incredibly huge number seems accurate to me. While turnover is inevitable, one way to minimize it is through a focus on your culture. One important step to focusing on culture is a focus on managers and the role they play in it. 

This is because 58% of those who left a job due to culture claim managers are the main reason they left. That’s why Civility Partners offers a variety of training topics to help, including conflict resolution, addressing incivility, coaching employees, implicit bias, and others.

But we often suggest a good place to start is a climate assessment to help identify issues in your organization and how to solve them, including what training topics will be of most use. 

Training is indeed paramount, because 36% of employees say their manager doesn’t know how to lead a team.  Yep, over a third of people don’t believe in their manager’s leadership skills. This position is directly responsible for guiding, assisting, and leading employees, and yet so many think their manager isn’t fulfilling these responsibilities.

In addition, 40% of employees say their manager fails to frequently engage in honest conversations about work topics. Employees need to be able to trust their managers, and so managers must create an environment in which transparent communication flourishes. Without this trust, toxic cultures flourish as employees fear addressing negative behavior.

Unfortunately managers, often unknowingly, facilitate toxic work environments simply because they’ve never been trained on creating a positive one.

Of course, one component of a positive environment is trust and transparency. Yet, 25% of employees don’t feel safe voicing their opinions about work-related issues. It becomes a major problem when employees are afraid to share their opinions, or even report serious conflict, harassment or discrimination. Employees need to be able to depend on their organization to make them feel safe and heard. If managers don’t create an environment of honest conversation, people remain silent. 

And the burden of silence is difficult to bear, as 57% of people report leaving work feeling exhausted, and that a toxic atmosphere often compounds that stress. Not only does an unhealthy work culture affect an employee at work, but it can impact their personal life as well. Employees may find themselves having a difficult time relaxing when they’re off the clock, venting to their spouse who gets sick of hearing about it, or losing interest in their family as they become depressed or anxious. 

Finally, “25% of Americans dread going to work.” Dread going to work? Gosh, if employees dread work, they certainly lack engagement and the drive to remain passionate and successful in their role. Their productivity goes down, they may start showing up to work late, calling in sick, and lashing out. You know the drill. 

Perhaps this translates into the loss of $431 billion per year due to unplanned absences.

Employees need leaders and colleagues who motivate them to be the best version of themselves, which is why it’s so crucial to establish a culture of respect and dignity.

And so, I’ll leave you with this: Approximately 3 in 4 working Americans believe management establishes workplace culture, laying the foundation for them to succeed at work.

So here’s the million dollar question: Do your managers know how to establish and sustain a positive workplace culture? 

If not, let’s talk. 

Sincerely,

Catherine

P.S., Sameen, our super amazing HR & Marketing Assistant, made this infographic for you for easy reference. Check it out and pass it around. 

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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