The Role of HR Leaders in Dealing with Toxic Work Environment

April 5, 20222:01 pm2807 views
The Role of HR Leaders in Dealing with Toxic Work Environment
Image by teksomolika via Freepik
This article is a guest post.

A toxic culture is one of the most damaging factors to a company’s productivity. You will likely see a loss of motivation and morale among employees if they are unhappy and stressed at work. Toxic workplace cultures have an effect on people at all levels, from the C-suite to interns. Results can only be achieved if all individuals in the organization collaborate and work side by side to make the company a better place to work. But when employees are stressed in a toxic work environment, communication is limited, a blame culture exists, and people are rewarded (tacitly or explicitly) for unethical, harmful, or nasty attitudes and actions.

Consequences of Toxic Work Environments

  1. Increase workplace turnover – Based on the study conducted in 2019 by SHRM, 49 percent of American workers have considered leaving their organization, and 1 in 5 employees have left their jobs in the last five years due to corporate culture. As a result, the cost of turnover due to workplace culture has surpassed $223 billion in the last five years.
  2. Lack of trust – The recent survey of tech workers conducted by Team Blind (a community workplace app) revealed that an alarming 70% of employees did not trust their HR departments to handle complaints or reports of workplace harassment. HR departments need to do perform more tasks in order to ensure that employees feel HR is a safe, accountable space where they can speak honestly and get results.
  3. Increase stress – Based on Bupa study, over 11 million working days are lost each year due to job-related stress, which indirectly contributes to conditions like anxiety or depression. Employees in toxic work environments perform lower-quality work, engage less, have lower morale and motivation, become apathetic, are prone to burnout, and are increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs, companies, and potentially even their lives.
  4. Negative Perspective on Self – An unhealthy work environment can have a negative effect on your personal life. Working in a toxic environment increases your inclination to criticize yourself and your job. This can have an impact on your relationships with others as well as your relationship with yourself. Besides, you will be more likely to become influenced by dramatic behavior if you are not able to get yourself out of this negative mindset. As a result, you will begin to feel as if you are unable to meet the company and manager’s expectations. 

See also: Workplace Community Events to Eliminate Toxic Work Culture

The Role of HR Leaders in Handling A Toxic Work Environment

Ed Mayo, author of Values stated that toxic cultures can be addressed before it is too late. “In a positive culture, potential cheating or bullying is addressed early, before it is repeated, made visible, and scrutinized.” There is still time to act. There is no repeating pattern of bad behavior which is a defining feature of a toxic culture.”

HR leaders can help identify, address, and fix the underlying causes of a toxic work environment in the following ways:

  1. Recognize the Problem – It is essential to recognize the problem and address it as soon as possible. It enables you to address potential issues ahead of time and can help to create a safer, safer working environment for everyone. It is also important to approach these issues with honesty and an open mind while addressing them directly in order to eliminate negative behavior.
  2. Implement Clear HR Policies and Procedures – It is critical to have clarity on HR policies and procedures that are in accordance with labor laws. It is important that you refer to these documents to communicate how managers can relate to employees and vice versa, the type of behavior that is acceptable in the workplace, and the consequences while remaining in compliance with labor laws.
  3. Integrate the Culture of Rewards and Recognition – HR leaders can consider implementing a fair rewards and recognition program to help employees feel appreciated and known for their efforts. They can also persuade other managers to do the same. It improves their work and increases employee engagement, productivity, and loyalty as well as keeps your employees from feeling underappreciated.
  4. Be Flexible – HR leaders can improve workplace relationships by being supportive. You can allow a working mother who is having difficulties taking care of their child issues to work from home, or you can give someone who is dealing with personal issues on certain flexible hours. Employees are less likely to be stressed and anxious due to these issues.
  5. Encourage Team Building Activities – Team building activities enable employees at all levels to interact and collaborate as a team toward a common goal. In addition, team activities help to promote communication, innovation, and collaboration which can improve the relationship among people. It also reduces employee tension by allowing them to interact in a more relaxed setting.


Toxic workplaces exist and as an HR leader, you must be able to identify the warning signs and know how to deal with them. Setting healthy work boundaries can help HR leaders to avoid unhealthy work environments. If the boundaries cannot be met or even compromised, it may not help people to meet the organizational goal. Being healthy is the key to the wealth of employees. When the employees feel healthy, they can stay around as long as possible, able to save time and money for themselves and their loved ones which lead to high performance and productivity in the organization.

Read also: Work Addiction and Hustle Culture: Toxic Behaviour to Avoid


Author bio

Dr. Kamalesh Ravesangar is a Lecturer with over eight years of experience in teaching Certificate, Diploma, Degree, and MBA students from various social and cultural backgrounds at private colleges and universities. Currently, she works as Head of Programme (HRM) and Lecturer at Albukhary International University in Malaysia. She is also Associate Editor for Albukhary Social Business Journal (ASBJ). She is also a Professional Member of Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management. A subject matter expert in human resource management, human resource development, management, and organisational behavior studies.

Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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