The Perils of Workplace Toxicity

Apr 22, 2022

Between April and September 2021, more than 24 million American employees left their jobs. Why did they go? The answer is complex, and researchers are still trying to understand it, but they know that workplace toxicity plays a significant role.

MIT researchers Donald and Charlie Sull (a father and son team) found that many companies have ‘pockets of toxicity’ that top leaders don’t know about. These pockets play a leading role in employee departures. It’s impossible to keep good people if they come to work feeling anxious and dissatisfied or if they deal with an unreasonable manager.

Having a miserable work life can be deadly. At some point, people who want to survive long enough to meet their grandkids will take a serious look at their job and its impact on their well-being. If they find they are at risk due to work-related stress and anxiety, they will leave; there’s too much at stake.

Pockets of toxicity can lead to significant losses in productivity, losses that, if unresolved, will eventually tank your business. Rooting out these pockets means talking with your front-line managers to register their stress levels and ask about their team’s stress levels. By digging into the culture of each department or team in your company, you will locate the sources of toxicity.

To tamp down the toxicity, take steps to ensure psychological safety for everyone on your team. Make sure they feel comfortable expressing their opinions and know that you will respect them even if you disagree. When employees feel free to express themselves, they feel empowered to innovate and push forward. Would you rather have a team frozen by fear or eager to forge ahead?

So, do you know where your pockets of toxicity hide? I’m here for you if you need help finding them and clearing them out. Email me at