5 Signs of a Toxic Work Environment for Diverse Employees

toxic work environment

It’s no secret that the celebrated, modern workplace includes all kinds of inclusion and diversity initiatives. After all, report after report shows that diversity strengthens an organization’s innovation and competitive edge.

Diversity is in one word: advantageous. It is also in two words: slightly complicated. Why? It all comes down to how well its managed.

Even if corporate HR policies are in place, it may not always feel that way at the individual level. A toxic work environment can undermine any higher level initiatives to make all employees feel comfortable at work. So, how do you know if you’re experiencing the negative effects of a toxic work environment? Here’s what to look for!

Toxic work environments affect more than just the individual

To be clear, diversity encompasses a range of differences, from sexuality to race to unique personality types. While a workplace may not be designed to actively create a negative system, things can look a lot different at the individual level. Essentially, a toxic workplace can exist in many forms, oftentimes unknown to HR professionals or managers. However, its in the best interest of these individuals to be aware of any signs of a toxic workplace. The company’s performance depends on it.

Over the course of two years, Google conducted a study on its own teams to see what factors made groups work most successfully. While most assume that a dream team consists of the perfect mix of skills and personalities, the study’s results proved otherwise. In fact, the most critical dynamic that dictated team success was psychological safety. In other words, team members must feel comfortable enough to take risks around each other and share their true opinions. They don’t feel threatened or insecure around others about their contributions.

In fact, the most critical dynamic that dictated team success was psychological safety.

When diverse individuals feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to express themselves, the entire team’s performance can suffer.

In other words, a toxic workplace means losses for the company as a whole.

gossiping coworkers

Symptoms of a toxic work environment

If you feel uncomfortable about your differences in the workplace, you may be experiencing a toxic environment. Here are some red flags to look for.

  1. A coworker who makes your life miserable. There are several types of toxic employees that can stink up a workplace. However, when it comes to impacting diverse individuals, a toxic coworker may openly spread malicious rumors or discriminating gossip. They may also take up the role of a bully to bring others down and make them uncomfortable for personal differences.
  2. An abusive manager. You may have heard the common wisdom that “people leave their managers, not their jobs“. If a direct manager is abusing their authority to bring you or others down, it may be a sign of a toxic work environment.
  3. Constant gossip all day, every day. Discomfort doesn’t have to stem from a single person. Sometimes, unhealthy environments come from the culture as a whole. In companies where workplace gossip circulates freely, the problem may be deeper than just one person. Having managers and HR individuals contribute to the negative talk with no policies to stop it hints at a larger problem.
  4. Intentional lack of communication. On the flip side, a lack of communication entirely or intentionally leaving you out of conversations can also be a sign of toxic coworkers and managers. Your unique background and perspective adds value, and shouldn’t be ignored.
  5. Strict, outdated policies. Times are constantly changing, and corporate policies should reflect that. For instance, a company should have a flexible range of holidays to take off depending on employees’ religious affiliations. Dress code should also be flexible enough to dismiss outdated, sexist policies and to accommodate individuals’ sexuality. Rigid policies that don’t seem like they belong in the 21st century may not always be suitable for a diverse workforce.

What to do next?

Having a harmful workplace doesn’t always have to lead you to quit your job. If you’ve identified that a toxic work environment is affecting your everyday well-being in and out of the workplace, you’ll need a plan for what to do next. Improvement may come in the form of transferring to a new team or department or talking to HR. However, sometimes a solution comes in the form of a new company.

Before settling on a fresh, new job, do your research into the company culture. For example, an inclusion initiative that’s becoming more and more common among cool company cultures is having Employee Resource Groups. These groups embrace diversity to create empowering communities within the workplace.

Explore best companies to work at

Not sure where to start your research for the best companies for diversity? Start by exploring past and current employee reviews on workplace culture resource sites like Glassdoor.com. This will give you an insider perspective on what to expect. You can also find some of the best work cultures in Arizona across a number of industries on BestCompaniesAZ.

Check out Arizona’s top employers that support diversity and inclusion in their workforce!

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