MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

UK Employees Experiencing Toxic Workplace Culture

Toxic workplaces impact productivity and mental health.
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Research has found that toxic work cultures across different sectors are resulting in workers becoming less productive and leaving their jobs.

Two in five employees say that they have experienced problematic behaviour such as bullying, harassment or discrimination at work. 42% admitted they have previously left a job due to bad workplace culture.

In a report conducted by Culture Shift, 1,000 employees were surveyed on the culture in their workplace. They answered questions on their experiences, incidents and the impact it has had on them. There were over 100 respondents from the banking/finance, healthcare, insurance, legal and public sectors each.

Productivity And Employment Engagement Impacted By Toxic Work Culture

The research finds that 41% of respondents say bad workplace culture has impacted their productivity, with over one-third feeling they have been silenced on issues that matter to them. This, in turn, impacts employee trust—36% responded that an incident such as bullying, harassment or discrimination at work has led them to distrust their employer.

In terms of absenteeism, 27% admitted to calling in sick due to problematic behaviour they had witnessed or experienced at work. 29% took time off due to an incident that happened in their place of work. This includes bullying, harassment, discrimination or sexual misconduct.

Specifically, almost three-quarters have called in sick due to not wanting to see somebody they have a negative relationship with at work.

These experiences also negatively impact mental health (64%) with 67% saying they have suffered from anxiety as a direct result of workplace bullying. 71% of respondents also admitted to attending therapy due to an issue they had experienced at work.

Which Sectors Are Worse For Toxic Work Cultures?

Industries such as insurance and banking see the most reports of feeling silenced, according to the data. In banking, 40% reported that they had felt silenced on issues that mattered to them, compared to 38% in insurance. 39% healthcare respondents reported that they had felt silenced.

On topics such as religion and politics, banking and insurance again featured as the industries silencing their employees. In banking, 22% reported having been told not to discuss religion at work by their current or former boss. In the insurance industry, this was at 25%.

When it comes to politics, 32% of insurance employees were told not to discuss politics at work—in banking, this was 21%.

In the law industry, 38% of employees said they were less engaged with their job due to the company having a bad culture. These employees (55%) have also admitted leaving a job due to bad workplace culture.

The report also shows that the law industry has a problem with employee mental health and productivity due to toxicity. 50% of employees said that their bad workplace culture has impacted their productivity with 52% saying that the workplace has impacted their mental health.

However, it is healthcare that sees the most employees admitting experiencing problematic behaviour in the workplace (52%). This includes bullying, harassment or discrimination.

How Can Employers Tackle Toxic Work Environments?

There are things that companies can do to treat the toxicity within their workplace. According to the report, 67% said they would report bullying if it was happening in the business now. However, employers need to be aware that the majority would rather do this anonymously (62%).

The report also advises employers to take a “preventative approach” to protect employees from toxicity: “Negative workplace culture and employer traits are resulting in demotivated workforces, dipping productivity and many employees bearing the brunt of unacceptable behaviour, but what could employers be doing to protect their people?” the report says. “Many of these incidents could absolutely be avoided and there are preventative tactics employers could be adopting to minimise the risk on their people, by protecting them.”

The majority of employees (91%) say that knowing that their employer takes bullying and harassment complaints seriously is an important factor to their overall happiness at work. It’s important that workers know that there won’t be repercussions for reporting bullying, and this is where anonymous platforms come into play.

“Anonymous reporting not only provides your people with a safe space to report any incidents of problematic behaviour they’ve either witnessed or experienced, but it offers you the opportunity to learn more about your culture while providing you with insights to identify any potentially harmful patterns,” explains the report. “This enables you to make informed decisions to activate positive change and to protect your employees, your organisation and your culture.”