Toxic Workplace Culture: The Signs and How to Improve It

In this article, we will be looking at the signs of a toxic workplace culture and how you can change it into a positive one.

Outdoor Working« Back to Articles

Workplace culture is something that more organisations are now investing in. But why? Whilst most people may have heard the term ‘workplace culture’ what does it mean? Simply put, workplace culture is a combination of the attitudes, behaviours, values and ideologies within an organisation. Your workplace culture is the environment created by an organisation and its employees, overall influencing the atmosphere and personality of an organisation. Organisation workplace culture impacts several things, such as:

• Employee well-being
• Employee performance and productivity
• Communication
• Employee engagement
• Talent retention and attraction
• Transparency

But what happens when the culture becomes toxic? A toxic workplace culture is an environment where employees feel negative emotions such as guilt, humiliation and rejection. Toxicity in the workplace is detrimental to the overall success of an organisation, with the actions of other employees impacting another employee's ability to work effectively.

In this article, we will be looking at the signs of a toxic workplace culture and how you can change it into a positive one.

9 Signs of a Toxic Workplace Culture

Recognising signs of a toxic workplace is important to set a plan in place to make changes. Whilst each organisation is different and employees react differently to things, here are some of the most common signs:

1. A negative environment: A negative environment and atmosphere is a sign you have a toxic workplace culture. If there are general feelings of negativity, disengagement or disrespect within your organisation, then a negative environment will be created.

2. Workplace gossip: Gossip thrives in hostile work environments. If your organisation often is the victim of constant gossip, this is a clear sign that your workplace culture is toxic. When your employees talk about each other behind each other's backs, it will result in distrust, drama and in the worst cases, workplace bullying.

3. No room for mistakes: Everyone makes mistakes, but if your employees are terrified to make mistakes within your organisation, then this is a big warning sign. When your employees are scared to make mistakes to punishments, then the whole team suffers. Your employees need to feel comfortable to try new things, without fear of consequences.

4. High turnover rates:
A toxic work environment leads to high employee turnover. If a large number of your employees are leaving, it’s a sign that the workplace culture is unhealthy.

5. Harassment and bullying: When there is toxic workplace culture, there are higher instances of harassment and bullying. This negative behaviour is a clear indicator that something needs to be done, and fast.

6. Higher levels of stress and burnout: Employees feel stressed for many reasons, from burnout to disagreement with management. A clear indicator of workplace toxicity is that there are higher levels of stress and burnout among employees, which will result in impacted well-being, fatigue and several problems that will impact employee productivity and satisfaction.

7. Lack of trust: In toxic workplace environments, you will see a lack of trust among employees. Whether management doesn’t trust their team and mentors them, or employees are untrusting with their co-workers, a lack of trust impacts all employees.

8. No opportunities for growth: Employee growth and development is a key part of a healthy workplace culture. When there is a lack of opportunities for professional development and growth, employees will feel unfulfilled and stagnant in their roles.

9. No work-life balance: Work-life balance is an important part of ensuring the well-being of your employees. One of the most common signs of an organisation with a toxic work environment is one where employees are expected to be available 24/7 and not their regular working hours.

How to Fix a Toxic Workplace Culture

Creating a positive and thriving workplace culture isn’t always an easy process, but there are a few methods you can take to ensure your culture is as healthy as it can be:

1. Recognise if your workplace culture is toxic: Recognising if your workplace is toxic, is the first step in fixing it. By using the signs mentioned above, you can assess your current workplace culture and acknowledge if it’s toxic or not. When you’re able to identify the problems, you’re able to come up with better-suited solutions and ensure all employees are happy in the workplace.

2. Encourage a healthy work-life balance:
As mentioned, a toxic work environment is one where employees feel they don’t have an acceptable work-life balance. If you want to keep your employees healthy, happy and motivated then you need to ensure a healthy work-life balance is a priority for all employees. From only contacting your employees during their working hours to giving them enough time to grab some lunch, there are many ways to ensure your employees are getting a satisfactory break from the workplace. By doing this, you’re showing that you value your employee's time.

3. Encourage people to speak up: Encourage all employees to speak up if any toxic behaviours or attitudes are happening within the workplace. The key to a great workplace culture is one where employees feel they can speak their minds without negative consequences. When employees can speak up about the challenges they face, the easier it is for solutions to be made.

4. Recognise and reward: Employees need to feel rewarded and recognised for the hard work they do. Whenever they achieve goals or accomplish milestones in their career, when you show appreciation, you’re motivating them to keep performing better. Learn the different ways to reward your employees and speak to them to understand what they want.

5. Set clear and fair rules: When your employees are aware of what is expected from them, they understand what can and can’t be done. By setting clear rules that are fair for everyone, you’re setting an example of what is acceptable in the workplace. Make sure that employees don’t receive unfair treatment, no matter how senior their position is.

6. Implement a mentoring programme: From improving employee communication to enhancing career progression, mentoring programmes come with some benefits. When you implement a mentoring programme, you’re showing employees you value them and are willing to invest in their development. When employees feel seen, they work more effectively and strive to reach goals. A toxic workplace is one where there is a lack of development and learning opportunities, which is something mentoring can help combat.

7. Work on trust:
Trust is key for a healthy organisational culture, which is why if you want to fix a toxic culture, you need to assess different methods to improve trust among employees. When your employees feel they are trusted, you’re creating an environment where employees feel unjudged and that they can communicate transparently with their co-workers. Read our latest article to discover how to build trust among employees.

8. Continuous learning and development: As discussed, mentoring is a great way to ensure the development of employees. However, there are several ways you can guarantee continuous learning and development within an organisation. From webinars to training workshops, investing in your employee's professional development fosters a positive work environment that values the personal and professional growth of its employees.

9. Invest in leadership: One of the key ways to build a positive work culture and fix a toxic one is to ensure that you have effective leadership in place. Strong leadership comes with many advantages, with the leaders acting as role models and providing the right support and guidance to their teams. When you have supportive leadership in place, you’re setting the tone for a positive workplace culture.


Healthy workplace culture plays an important role in not only the success of your organisation, but its employees. From keeping employees engaged at work to reducing the turnover rate at your organisation, a positive environment is key for ensuring a healthy and happy workforce.

Now that you know the most common signs to look for, you can use some of these solutions to help your organisation culture thrive.

Welcome to PushFar, the world's largest mentoring platform. Whether you're looking to find a mentor or launch your own mentoring programs and schemes, we can help.
Looking for a mentor or to become a mentor?
Join Now Free Running your own mentoring programs?
Request a Demo

Explore more articles...

Similar mentoring, career progression and learning articles and resources by PushFar, you might like to read.

Go Further, with PushFar.

What are you looking for in your mentoring journey?
Individual Mentoring - Join Free
Organisation Solutions - Request a Demo