- Toxic workplace cultures have driven 20% of U.S. employees out of their jobs in the past five years — at a turnover cost greater than $223 billion — according to The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture, a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). SHRM polled American workers to uncover the impact of culture on workers' well-being and the financial health of businesses.
- Employees polled believe management lacks critical skills, according to SHRM; employees often hold managers, not HR leaders, responsible for creating the workplace culture, the report noted. Among the respondents, 76% said their manager creates the culture and 58% said they left a job because of their managers, SHRM said.
- Managers have also failed to communicate effectively, the report revealed. Three in 10 respondents said their manager does not foster a culture of open and transparent communication.
"Toxicity itself isn't new. But now that we know the high costs and how managers can make workplaces better, there's no excuse for inaction," SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr. said in a media release.
Taylor told HR professionals and leaders at the 2019 Annual SHRM Conference in Las Vegas that HR can lead in solving the more egregious workplace issues, which often include toxic workplace cultures. "I don't think you can legislate yourself out of this," Taylor said. "If people don't know how to identify bad workplace behavior, we're never going to fix this. If there's tolerance for this at the top ... there's a problem."
Efforts to correct poor work culture can start with a look at employees' mental health. Employees and senior managers in a recent Accountemps survey disagreed about the root causes of burnout, but agreed that toxic workplace culture is certainly one of the sources. One in five managerial respondents to the survey gave their team's burnout level a ranking of eight or higher on a scale of 10. "Managers need to identify responsibilities that can be reassigned or put on hold," Accountemps Senior Executive Director Michael Steinitz said in a statement. "They can also bring in temporary professionals to alleviate heavy workloads, support day-to-day needs and assist with projects requiring specialized skills."
Creating an ethical work environment can help prevent or overhaul a toxic culture, according to San Diego State University (SDSU) research. Managers who demonstrate ethical leadership can prevent employees from belittling, criticizing and otherwise mistreating their fellow workers, the research concluded. "We define 'ethical leadership' as [...] those who engage employees by discussing their work-related worries and emotions," researcher Gabi Eissa said in a statement. "Ethical leaders want to help employees respond positively to negative situations and they try to offer resources to help employees who may find themselves hitting a rough patch."