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Toxic workplace

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Title: Toxic workplace  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Workplace bullying, Abusive supervision, Workplace incivility, Organizational culture, Narcissistic leadership
Collection: Organizational Culture, Workplace, Workplace Bullying
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Toxic workplace

In the context of a toxic workplace, a toxic employee is a worker who is motivated by personal gain (

  • Durré L Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Coworkers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day (2010)
  • Kusy M & Holloway E Toxic workplace!: managing toxic personalities and their systems of power (2009)
  • Lavender NJ & Cavaiola AA Toxic Coworkers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job (2000)
  • Lavender NJ & Cavaiola AA The One-Way Relationship Workbook: Step-By-Step Help for Coping with Narcissists, Egotistical Lovers, Toxic Coworkers & Others Who Are Incredibly Self-Absorbed (2011)
  • Lubit RH Coping with Toxic Managers, Subordinates ... and Other Difficult People: Using Emotional Intelligence to Survive and Prosper (2003)
  • Sue MP Toxic People: Decontaminate Difficult People at Work Without Using Weapons Or Duct Tape (2007)

Further reading

  1. ^ Benoit, Suzanne (2011) "Toxic Employees: great companies resolve this problem, you can too!" Falmouth, Maine: BCSPublishing
  2. ^ The Healthy Workplace Campaign accessed June 14, 2011 at:
  3. ^ Bitting, Robert. "Using Effective Leadership Strategies in the Workplace". Retrieved May 13, 2011.
  4. ^ Davies, Andrews and Smith. "Do You Have a Toxic Employee in Your Workplace?" Retrieved May 13, 2011
  5. ^ The Toxic Employee
  6. ^ SHARP Report, April 2011, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, "Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behaviour" accessed at:
  7. ^ Mayhew, Ruth "Is employee turnover always bad?" accessed at:
  8. ^ SHARP Report, April 2011, Washington State Department of Labour and Industries, "Workplace Bullying and Disruptive Behaviour" accessed at:


See also

When toxic employees leave the workplace, it can improve the culture overall because the remaining staff are more "engaged" and "productive."[7] Companies who articulate a strong set of cultural values regarding communication, respect and professionalism as well as a performance evaluation system that ranks both technical performance and the professional treatment of fellow employees are felt by HR professionals to be less vulnerable.[8]

Interventions to address this negative behaviour in the workplace should be undertaken carefully.[5] A four-tiered approach involving fellow employees is suggested by Dr. Gerald Hickson and colleagues at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Starting with interventions beginning with informal, then awareness, authoritarian and finally, discipline. If the intervention at the informal level is not effective, the intervention would move to awareness and so on.[6]

Prevention and resolution

Fellow employees may begin to experience physical symptoms from the stress and worry over whether they or someone they care about in the work place may be targeted. This can even develop into a clinical depression requiring treatment.[4]

This phenomenon harms both the company and the other employees, including those who are not direct targets. Co-workers are distracted by drama, gossip and by choosing sides in the on-going animosity. This can translate into lost productivity.[3] While employees are distracted by this activity, they cannot devote time and attention to the achievement of business goals. Positively motivated and ethical employees may try to speak up to a toxic employee but this can make them a target (see whistleblower). Over time, positively motivated employees drift away from the workplace and only employees comfortable in the negatively charged atmosphere remain on staff.

Corporate and organizational results


  • Corporate and organizational results 1
  • Prevention and resolution 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5

The number of toxic employees in the workplace currently appears to be growing in relation to increases in workplace stress. This is due to lean staffing, the stress of potential layoffs and the fact that longer service employees typically survive layoffs. The issue of workplace bullying is getting increasing attention from state governments. Twenty-six of the United States have introduced a version of the Healthy Workplace Bill which provides a definition of this conduct and support for employers to address the behaviour through discipline.[2]


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