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The Five Most Toxic Workplace Situations, Ranked (Part One)

Posted on: September 17th, 2015 | Category: Employee Relations, Our Blog

toxic workplaces hr solutions myHR BlogmyHR Partner was fortunate to catch up recently with Linnda Durré, Ph.D., a psychotherapist, corporate and business consultant, international speaker, columnist and author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against the Co-workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day (McGraw Hill 2010). We asked her for the top five toxic workplace situations she has run into in her illustrious career to share here on myHR Blog.

Dr. Durré’s countdown from #5 to #3 is below. It may be an eye-opener for some, or a confirmation that what you perceive is actually a real issue that needs to be addressed.


toxic workplaces hr solutions myHR Blog 5. Disorganization

Sure, disorganization doesn’t sound so horrible as to be implicated in a toxic workplace—but when it’s really bad, it can do just that. A severe lack of process or systems to deal with day-to-day work, outdated technology or equipment and messy, dirty, unsafe environments can allow sloppy work, missing inventory and/or documentation and even OSHA issues to occur, says Durré. This can dishearten your workforce and result in lower employee satisfaction, absenteeism and high turnover rates. Your bottom line can take a severe hit as well. “Loss of profits are undesirable to any business or corporation,” says Durré.

Disorganization can be addressed in positive ways, says Durré. Enlisting your team to help set up user-friendly, efficient and useful organizational systems will most likely result in a bigger buy-in by your team, and it will also provide truly meaningful changes for everyone for a more productive work environment. It can be a powerful team-building experience, Durré says, and one that that allows you, the employer, to show that your care about your employees’ welfare, safety and satisfaction on the job.

toxic workplaces hr solutions myHR Blog4. Weak Leadership

Nobody wants to be a weak leader or work under one. Under-trained, unqualified, overwhelmed and/or uncommitted managers can often end up being just that. Or their personality isn’t a good fit for the leadership role they have been given. They might be too passive, incompetent, frightened, approval-seeking and/or just plain lazy to manage effectively. Whatever the reason, employers suffer from the resulting poor team performance and constant stream of complaints from employees who report to these weak bosses. It makes for a frustrating, inefficient and unproductive workforce, says Durré.

“To combat this type of toxic workplace, it helps to train and mentor the existing weak leaders to be stronger, more decisive and better communicators. It also helps to have a program in place to properly prepare new managers on how they should be performing in their new roles,” says Dr. Durré. “Doing nothing, she adds, will only leave room for hostile people or unproductive cultures to move in.”

toxic workplaces hr solutions myHR Blog3. Blatant Favoritism

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is not the motto for a healthy workplace, says Dr. Durré. “Favoring friends and nepotism can be harder to avoid in small and midsized family-owned businesses, and a conscious effort to display a clear path to success within an organization is always the best way to combat the image of favoritism,” says Dr. Durré. “Documentation is vital, to show your team that rewards are justified, and to remind managers that their choices for rewards and promotions effect everyone on the team. This sets the role model for the correct climb up the ladder.”

“There is also the issue of sexual relationships in the workplace and the appearance of favoritism it brings. Hidden or overt sexual relationships can affect the entire team’s sense of trust and fairness,” says Dr. Durré. “Whether real or perceived, people in the workplace often feel as if the power structure within the group changes. How employers deal with this is extremely important. The effects on others can engender resentment, depression and anger. Navigating around these issues can be delicate and one needs to be diplomatic.”

MyHR Partner’s words of wisdom on fostering workplace happiness

Disorganized workplaces, weak management and favoritism are all factors that can contribute to unhappy employees. These people can feel unappreciated, unmotivated and stagnant in these situations and employers should try to address these issues before they become large obstacles for HR and management. Better yet, go beyond that to find ways to nurture career and personal growth in employees so that they feel good about their organization and their role within it. Why? Because happiness matters in a workforce.

“I recommend finding ways to grow the knowledge base of your employees as a means to support their ambitions,’” says Tina Hamilton, PHR, president of myHR Partner. “It encourages them to keep working optimally for your business—and besides, who really wants an employee with no ambition?”

Tune in next week as we cover the rest of Dr. Durré’s most toxic workplace situations. Can you guess what the top two are?
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ABOUT LINNDA DURRÉ, PH.D.: She is a psychotherapist, corporate and business consultant, international speaker, expert witness and columnist, who also hosted and produced the radio show, The Linnda Durré Show” on WEUS 810AM in Orlando, Florida. She has hosted and co-produced, The Dr. Linnda Durré Show that aired WDBO, a Cox radio station in Orlando, a call-in advice radio show. She hosted and co-produced two live, call-in advice TV shows, including Ask the Family Therapist on the Mayo Clinic-affiliated America’s Health Network and Personal Success with Dr. Linnda Durré on a PBS affiliate. She has been interviewed on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Canada AM and The O’Reilly Factor, among others.

She has been featured in publications including The New York Times, Forbes, CNN,, Business Week, Entrepreneur Magazine, Job Week, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Parade, Investors Business Daily and San Francisco Chronicle & Examiner, among others. She has written columns for Forbes Online, American Cities Business Journals, Management Issues and The Orlando Business Journal.  Her regularly featured blog on eBossWatch can be found here.



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