Overcoming a Toxic Workplace: Insights from Communication Expert Laura Hamilton

March 29th, 2012 by

When Sunday afternoon rolls around, do you become worried or start to feel sick as you anxiously anticipate your return to the office?

Laura Hamilton, communication expert and president of her own consulting business based in Winston-Salem, N.C., says that being worried sick about going to work is a sign that your workplace is toxic. Workers in toxic environments usually have a gut feeling that something is awry in the company, says Laura.

Employees in these environments might feel as though opportunities to grow are limited and that working with their coworkers is challenging. Depending on how toxic their workplace is, employees may also feel a sense of panic, anxiety or that they have no place to go or no one to turn to for help.

Laura says that several factors help foster a toxic atmosphere. Individuals who partake in bullying, self-righteous or self-absorbed behavior can add to workplace chaos. Employees who strive for perfection or use passive-aggressive tactics to make their points can cause stress to their coworkers. Setting impossible project deadlines or practicing unfair bonus competitions can also make your staff feel overwhelmed.

If your environment is harmful, you should hold your management team partly responsible because research shows that a work environment is a reflection of how things run at the top. Laura points out that there are cases where one disgruntled employee can destroy the productivity in an entire department as well.

If you don’t take action to correct your toxic workplace, your company could suffer some of the following consequences:

  • Loss of productivity
  • Financial losses that affect the bottom line
  • Increase in absenteeism
  • Increase in insurance claims for stress-related diseases
  • Production of low-quality work

Not only will your business be affected, but Laura says that your employees will soon show wear and tear from the negative environment. Employees working under toxic conditions can feel anxious or angry. They may lose confidence or isolate themselves from their coworkers. Laura says that most employees don’t realize they are under so much pressure and stress, as their work environment becomes their “new normal.”

Unfortunately, management may not be aware of the toxic environment they are letting build up, says Laura. Although many workers might be hesitant to go to upper management and report how their work environment is affecting them, management can’t fix a problem if they don’t know one exists. Address the serious situation with your management team, and suggest ways that your company’s environment can be more positive and productive.

Laura Hamilton can be reached at Laura@laurahamilton.com for additional questions relating to toxic environments.

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