Introduction to Retention:  Removing Toxicity from the Workplace

A toxic work environment can destroy an office from the inside out, and it can take months, or even years, to cleanse a workplace of toxicity.  Aside from concerns about pay, a toxic workplace can be one of the biggest reasons a person quits their job, with the Society of Human Resources Management estimating that one in five employees have left a job because of a negative environment.  This type of workplace can lead to workers beginning to suffer from stress, burnout, depression, and more, causing serious disruptions to daily life and delays in office projects and tasks.  In the end, employees left in a toxic environment can be a detriment to themselves and their work. 

Workers who are not happy in their occupation or their environment will be disengaged and will not be able to be a productive part of the team.  For those managers and supervisors who are looking to boost office positivity, be sure to take a look at our blog post from May 25, 2023.  However, sometimes, offices have to start at the very beginning, and this means that any company seeking to improve their office culture and raise their retention rates has to look at the possibility of rooting out any negativity in their workplace.  Today, this post will expand on the positive office culture blog, going further into recognizing the signs of a negative office environment and elaborating on how to move forward on quickly removing that toxicity for good.   

“Don’t you know that you’re toxic?”

Today, Britney Spears won’t be necessary to explain the toxic workplace.  The signs of a toxic work environment are not hard to miss for someone who has experienced these negative traits in the past.  However, for those not tuned into their surroundings and aware of what is going on, or someone who is not as experienced in office politics, it is easy to get bogged down in the negativity and lose joy in the process of working.  Workers with narcissistic tendencies can bring an entire workplace down with no thought as to the consequences.  Toxic employees also tend to harass and bully their coworkers, destroying the mood of the whole office.  Those that don’t bend to the whims of toxic workers can be ostracized by them, and then offices start to see cliques, which are also dangerous to a positive workplace.  Once a small group of workers begins to be victimized by another, there is no limit to the amount of damage that can be done.  While cliques can spread bad vibes and rumors, gossip isn’t the only communication issue experienced in a toxic workplace.  Whether it is unclear communication, passive-aggressive communication, messages sent after hours, or an overall lack of communication at all, these can be the core issues of a bad organization.       

Together, the above issues can turn into overarching disruptions to everyday life for everyone from entry-level employees to management and supervisors.  Toxic workplaces drain morale, breed unrest, causes mental and physical illnesses, and, finally, burns out the best employees.  For those used to being positive and facilitating a happy workspace, experiencing even a fraction of this negativity can take a significant toll on an employee’s mental health.  What can businesses do to mitigate the effects of a toxic workplace?

 “If you steal my sunshine…”

Like the song says: “I know it’s up for me.”  Everyone has a bad day, and all managers have to take into account that sometimes things happen, whether it is traffic, kids, weather, alarm clocks, etc.  Those same managers understand that it takes getting up and choosing negativity every day to turn an occasional grump into a full-blown toxic employee.  It is important to stay involved and be aware of ever-evolving office cultures.  If a manager can stay on top of any negativity happening in office, then it will be much easier to diminish the effects.  It gets increasingly difficult the longer toxicity is allowed to linger in workplaces.  

There are steps that can be taken to minimize the negativity that can destroy offices.  The first is to find workers who feel the same way about positive workspaces that management does.  If the supervisor is a positive person who hires positive people to work for them, then, eventually, the office is staffed by employees who are happy and excited to come to work.  Also, ensure that the entire company has a good work/life balance.  By making sure that the team is separating their work from their outside lives, morale stays up and productivity improves.  This also shows workers that management is looking out for them and giving them tasks to hone their current skills or learn new ones to move upward.  On that note, though, make sure that workers in the office have plenty of tasks to complete without overloading or micromanaging them.  It has been noticed and documented that when employees do not have enough things to do, some will form cliques and waste valuable time gossiping or causing trouble.  On the other hand, good employees find micromanaging akin to bullying and will leave if they feel their bosses harass them or give them mindless, menial jobs to complete.   

A few companies have reached outside for help with toxic workplaces.  Employee Assistance Programs (or EAPs) with subsidies and recommendations for mental health help have been shown to help remove toxicity in the office.  81% of workers have said that they would stay at a company if upper management seemed to consider their employees’ mental health.  These types of programs show that management is invested in improving the mood and positivity of the office, making it easier for workers to focus on their work, instead of the gossip and negativity. 

Sometimes, when dealing with negative employees, it becomes necessary to let some workers go.  Make sure everything has been written down and documented before doing so; it is important to keep evidence of negativity if it is needed.  However, keep an eye on the rate at which employees leave as well.  Many potential candidates take note of rapid turnover because it is usually indicative of a toxic workplace, and, with retention rates being extremely important in 2023, do everything possible to bring positivity forth out of negative workers before letting them go.  Remove workers who thrive on negativity but make sure that they are not damaging the employer brand on the way out.


While a positive office environment can do powerful things for a company, a toxic workplace can likewise destroy any potential successes a business may have.  A negative office space makes it impossible for workers to learn and grow, and some can even be labeled as psychologically unsafe if they are full of bullying and harassment.  Remember that a toxic workplace hampers creativity, while increasing stress levels and the potential for burnout.  However, a positive workplace will create a supportive and inclusive team that is ready to tackle the future with the company they have chosen!


Meaghan Goldberg covers recruitment and digital marketing for Lionzone.  A Patterson, GA native, after graduating from both Valdosta State University and Middle Tennessee State University, Meaghan joined Lionzone in 2018 as a digital recruitment strategist before becoming the social media manager.



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