Toxic workplaces

I have had cause recently to contemplate what constitutes a toxic workplace – and in particular which factor is the biggest driver of creating such a workplace. There are many obvious contenders, but I’ll reference the front runners only:

Highly politicised

Politics (of the corporate kind) is often seen to be and made to be ‘bad’, but I think that it is a very good mechanism for keeping people on their toes and equipping them with the communications and observational skills necessary to progress in the corporate world. Being able to play the game is a skill needed when you are the CEO/ Chairman/ MD and you operate in a sphere where everything is the proverbial grey. What better training ground than middle management?


Also much despised is the overly bureaucratic environment, but again it should be - for any half-decent manager – a relative cinch to operate freely in that environment. Learning which rules to break and where to go in order to get things done actually improves inventiveness.


People who complain about unsupportive workplaces have a very new-age attitude to work. It is not always meant to be fun – that is why it is called work. If you want a work-life balance, work less and play more and suffer the consequences. The complainers are always those who want to work less but feel they can’t because someone else will get a Guernsey over them if they are not putting in the hard yards. They are right – and so it should be. (if it was your business, how would you treat employees?)

Little people

So the winner for me is the (toxic) workplace ruled by little people. It is always about them – not the business outcome. They are the ones who employee people who fear them and/or can be controlled, which pretty quickly creates a critical mass of fearfully obstructive employees. These are the ones who are excellent at managing upwards (= euphemism for ….???) and their favourite phase is: “ just keep me in the loop.”