The High Cost of a Toxic Work Environment

Toxic work environment

A toxic work environment is where employees experience persistent negativity, mistreatment, and an overall unhealthy atmosphere. Traits are not always apparent from the outside, but a recent MITSloan article reports that toxic work environments affect employees’ mental and physical health. 

These harmful conditions take many forms, but through research and surveys MITSloan revealed disrespect, a lack of inclusivity, unethical behavior, cutthroat competition, and abuse are the top five indicators of toxic work culture. The effects of these toxic work environments can be devastating not only to employees but to the company’s longevity.


Disrespectful behavior in the workplace comes in many forms, including condescending remarks, public humiliation, and the failure to acknowledge or reward an employee’s contributions. These actions can lead to a lack of motivation, low self-esteem, and even depression. With disrespect, employees are more likely to feel unappreciated, disengaged, and unmotivated, leading to a decline in productivity and job satisfaction. 

Lack of Inclusivity

Non-inclusive work environments can also have severe consequences for employees. For example, excluded employees feel marginalized, unvalued, and disconnected from the rest of the team. Exclusion can lead to isolation, low morale, and a lack of motivation. 

Unethical Leadership

Unethical behavior in the workplace can take many forms, including lying, cheating, and stealing. When employees witness or experience, unethical behavior can erode their trust in the company and its leaders. Unethical behavior can lead to decreased morale, productivity, and a lack of commitment to the organization. When it happens at the top with the people in power, people lower on the org chart don’t feel free to speak out. 

Cutthroat Competition

Cutthroat competition can also have adverse effects on employees. When employees are encouraged to compete against one another in an aggressive, hostile manner, it can lead to stress, burnout, and a lack of teamwork. This competition can also result in employees engaging in unethical behavior, such as lying or cheating, to get ahead. 


Finally, abusive behavior in the workplace can take many forms, including physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. This behavior leads to emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, the effects of abuse can last long after the employee has left the company. 

The high cost of a toxic work environment is not just limited to the toll it takes on employees. Companies with toxic work environments also face a high price in terms of turnover, low productivity, and decreased morale. In addition, harmful work environments can damage a company’s reputation, making it challenging to attract and retain top talent.


Often a toxic work environment goes unnoticed by those at the top. The very people with the power to course correct are often the leaders reinforcing the problem.

If you suspect your company has a toxic work culture but don’t know how to change it, begin with one-on-one coaching or a workshop. Right the ship and create a healthy, productive workplace, fostering respect, inclusivity, ethical behavior, and mutual support. Please reach out to me at Tom Flick Communications.