Early Peek (Pre-release) of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace

August 20, 2014 9:27 pm Published by

What Makes a Workplace Toxic?

Susan, a competent young professional, looked worn and defeated. In talking about her workplace, she told us that bickering, criticism, and lack of support had spread through her organization – a workplace she used to love. Now, she said, “The tension here is so thick I hate going to work. Actually, right now, I hate my life.”

In our book, Rising Above a Toxic Workplace, we surveyed hundreds of employees (and leaders) from a wide range of industries and sectors. We then individually interviewed dozens whose stories intrigued us. From our research we discovered the three core components that contribute to making a workplace “toxic” – a work environment that is unhealthy, and even dangerous, to the well-being of its employees.

Dysfunctional Employees

When we use the term “dysfunctional”, we are being descriptive, not just putting a condescending label on people. “Dys” means ‘problem’, and dysfunctional people have serious difficulties in functioning in daily life.

Dysfunctional employees tend to blame others and make excuses, rarely accepting responsibility for their actions. They withhold or distort information and communicate indirectly through others. They usually have a sense of entitlement, believing they should receive raises and promotion in spite of their inconsistent performance. And they are masters of creating conflict and tension within the workplace.

Poor Policies and Procedures

A toxic workplace can feel like some combination of chaos, incompetence or anarchy. How anything ever gets done can seem to be a mystery.

Some organizations have incredibly poor communication. Communication between departments is sporadic and incomplete (or non-existent.) A second variation is when there are no written, standardized ways of doing things (or the written version is so old, it is no longer applicable). The third common expression is when people “go around” the policies that exist. The policies are there; it is just that no one follows them.

Toxic Leaders

It is important to note that a toxic leader doesn’t have to be at the top tier of the organization – they can occur at a department level, or as a front-line supervisor. We identified ten common characteristics of toxic leaders. To summarize, toxic leaders may be very competent (in a technical sense) but their motives are impure. They essentially are totally focused on their interests and achievement, and will use others to get what they want.

What to Do?

One of the important components of the book is the practical advice we gathered from current managers and employees on how to cope with these difficult situations — as well as sharing our own observations.

If you know someone who is working in a difficult work environment, pre-order an autographed copy of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace and give them the tools they need to understand and survive a toxic workplace.


Paul White, PhD

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August 20, 2014 9:27 pm

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