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Toxic Work Environment

Toxic Work Environment

Toxicity in the workplace – are you experiencing this?

My friend is experiencing difficulty at work and at first I thought she was being overly sensitive as we all experience hard times in our careers however, it seems to me that her situation is escalating way beyond the perimeters of the norm.  She receives work related calls at all times of the night and weekends, she gets called offensive names which are explained away as jokes and the manner to which she is spoken is degrading and disrespectful.  Apart from that I can see the physical and emotional toll this is taking on her.  She has become depressed, withdrawn and unmotivated and seems to be sick all the time although she’s to scared to ask for sick leave.  I am worried and I don’t know how to help her.

As most of us are aware, Ellen DeGeneres, friend of the stars, has made headlines with numerous claims of inappropriate comments and behaviour behind the scenes of her popular daytime television show The Ellen DeGeneres Show.  After various former and current employees breaking their silence and making these allegations, one can say that her show, on and off air, has created the impression of a toxic work environment.  However, as many might understand the term, they might not actually realise that they are indeed experiencing such an environment themselves. A toxic or hostile work environment is not simply left at the door but may seep into every aspect of your life and influence not only your mental health and stability but may and most likely will cause problems with your physical health and even your relationships outside of work. Section 10 of the South African Bill of Rights as contained in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa states: “Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected”  The infringement of ones right to dignity and respect can take various forms including harassment, bullying and passive-aggressive behaviour.

Following are some of the signs of a toxic work environment:

  1. Discrimination

This includes any form of discrimination whether it be based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, political beliefs, education, or socio-economic standing.

  1. Poor Communication

Bad and/or lack of communications leads to confusion within a business and as a result many avoidable conflicts occur.

  1. High Employee Turnover

High employee turnover generally showcases that numerous people within the working environment are unhappy with the work conditions and therefor choose to seek employment elsewhere.

  1. Unmotivated Co-Workers and Lack of Enthusiasm

This may not only show that your co-workers are also experiencing the toxicity, but this could also influence yourself considerably as negativity tends to be contagious.

  1. Cliques, Gossipy Behaviour and Rumours

Not only do cliques cause feelings of exclusion and paranoia, it is also counterproductive in the work environment as your focus is not on your work but on the ongoing drama in the office.

  1. Feeling Burnt Out

The World Health Organisation recognises Workplace Burn Out as an occupational phenomenon and includes feelings of chronic fatigue, high levels of stress and not seeming to recover from even the mildest of illnesses.

  1. Poor or Narcissistic Leadership

Poor leadership is one of the most common causes of a toxic work environment as this leads to unmotivated co-workers, high employee turnover and workplace burnout.

  1. No Work-Life Balance

Once you leave work you should be able to focus on any responsibilities outside of work.  There may be instances where certain situations require you to work overtime or take a call after work hours, but this should not be the norm.  Once there are no boundaries in respect of your working hours or job description you can be sure to find most of the other signs of a toxic work environment present. An important aspect of determining whether you are working in a toxic workplace is to realise that the off-hand remark or the occasional dispute does not mean that you are necessarily working in a toxic environment.  It is the ongoing abusive behaviour and victimisation that determines the toxicity of a business and as such you have remedies available to yourself.  Should you believe yourself to be in such a situation you may require legal advise in respect of labour practice which we at Vermeulen Attorneys specialise in. Whether your choose to stay at your place of employment or seek alternative employment it should be made clear that it would not be in your best interest to ignore the situation and therefore needs to be dealt with quickly and effectively.

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