· 2 min read · News

Over half of UK employees have worked in a toxic workplace

Published:

Workplace cultures have come under scrutiny after a study found 70% of UK employees have worked in a toxic workplace environment at some stage of their career.

More than half of respondents (56%) said they would quit their job if they felt workplace culture was not good, according to online printer Instaprint’s research.

Female employees were 8% more likely to leave a role due to a toxic culture than men. 


The dangers of a toxic workplace:

Employees quitting jobs in record numbers due to toxic workplaces

Former Brewdog employees claim staff aren’t treated like human beings

What lessons leaders and HR can learn observing a toxic work environment


Key identifiers for a toxic working environment included bullying (46%), passive aggressive communications (46%), cliquey behaviour (37%), and blatant favouritism for certain colleagues by those within a more senior role (35%).

Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Howden Employee Benefits and Wellbeing, warned a toxic workplace culture can have a lot of negative implications for employee wellbeing.

He told HR magazine: “At the more obvious end of the scale, there are the increased stresses of attending such a workplace. 

“Stress can lead to mental health issues, which can in turn lead to increased absence problems the very last thing that any business needs at any time, and particularly at this stage of the UK’s economic recovery.”

Herbert said a toxic workplace can also damage employee engagement, and there is evidence to suggest that poor engagement equals lower productivity.

“Of course, a poor workplace culture is likely to be damaging for employee retention, potentially leading to experienced and valued employees choosing to walk away from a business.

“Replacing employees in the current recruitment market may present genuine challenges, and of course is very expensive in terms of HR time and interview costs too. 

“And even if a suitable new recruit can be found, it may take many months for the individual to reach maximum productivity in their new role.”

Comparatively, the least toxic industries to work in were found to be science and pharmaceuticals (46%), property and construction (55%) and media and internet (57%).

Bullying was found to be least tolerated in the law enforcement and security industry with 67% claiming this was the worst toxic trait in the workplace.

However, only 14% of those working in the media and internet business deemed bullying as a toxic behaviour.

When comparing workplace cultures around the UK Newcastle (6.7) was voted as the most toxic city to work in, followed by Leeds and Sheffield which each scored 6.8 out of 10, with 10 being the least toxic.

The healthiest work cultures were found to be in Southampton, as employees who work there scored their current workplace at an average of 7.8.