WORKPLACE / JUN. 28, 2016
version 5, draft 5

Study Reveals Why Workplaces Become Toxic

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Nobody enjoys working in a toxic workplace – it is unproductive, but what makes it unhealthy to in the first place? A recent study asked this question!

How would you describe your company culture? Fun, exciting or would you say competitive and demanding? Whether your job allows you to be yourself or drives you to your own personal limitations, there is a reason it’s the way it is. Usually, the management team and the employees are responsible for determining the company culture. It depends on whether they are helpful, kind and understanding enough as well as if they are people you can easily work with. Then again, there are those people who only make your workday a living hell and contribute to creating a toxic environment you can’t really work in.

But even for these people, there is a logic explanation that justifies their behaviour. A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology shows, people who have been undermined at work are more likely to undermine others. This causes distress in the workplace and contributes to making it a negative environment to work in.

See Also: 5 Examples of a Toxic Company Culture You Want to Avoid

The research paper, "Why Victims of Undermining at Work Become Perpetrators of Undermining", examines this undermining behaviour in much more depth and explains that this commonly happens in competitive workplace settings where employees see each other as their opponent. As if this wasn’t enough the study says that this kind of behaviour costs employers about 6 billion dollars annually in health problems, employee turnover, and productivity loss. Considering that a toxic work environment is damaging business development, something needs to be done to keep employees and employers happy.

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Caroline Zaayer Kaufman writing for Monster presented her findings after talking with Ki Young Lee, who is the lead author of the study and currently is the assistant professor of organisation and human resources at the University of Buffalo School of Management.

Just as Ki Young Lee admits, “undermining is an important topic to study if we want to prevent the workplace from becoming toxic”. Behaviours such as gossiping, withholding information and giving someone the ‘silent treatment’ are signs a workplace isn’t operating effectively. The reason undermining becomes a central issue is because its effects aren’t immediately apparent and the harm caused can be subtle.

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Ki Young Lee says that people who undermine don’t value morality which means they are likely to be less caring, less friendly and less compassionate. It makes sense then that employers should hire employees who value morality because these people are more likely to thrive in the workplace and help their coworkers without making unethical decisions.

See Also: How to Find Where You Would Love to Work

While some competition should be encouraged at work, there always needs to be some sense of security amongst employees. This helps to promote trust, communication and creativity whereas undermining works the other way around. It creates distance between people, encourages dishonesty and makes working harder than it needs to be.

Undermining makes the workplace a more hostile place to be in. So is it worth it? Let me know what you think in the comments section below…

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