Question: Advice for People Stuck in Toxic Workplaces

"A toxic workplace is a work environment that is poisonous and harmful and potentially damaging to the people that work there and even to the organization," explains Dr. Paul White, psychologist and author.

What advice would you give to employees who find themselves in toxic workplaces?

How can they make their lives -- and their jobs -- better?

Expert Insight

Having witnessed an organization devolve into toxicity, the first thing a person can do is to find "fellow sufferers" who don't abide the conduct that is contributing to that toxicity. Simply having like-minded allies and calling the problem out is therapeutic.

The second thing is for the allies to build what the Workplace Bullying Institute ( calls "building a business case" against the perpetrators. This is not an easy task, as these people are often extremely good at their jobs, and often considered "golden" by the organization. However, as Stanford professor Bob Sutton details in his book The No Asshole Rule" (pp 45-48), toxic individuals are also high-maintenance and costly to the organization. The single individual highlighted in the case study cost his organization an estimated $160,000.

In the instance that I witnessed, the devolution began with a change in management. It was the chief executive who fostered and cultivated the toxic workplace. Presenting a "business case" to the boss when the boss is the problem will generally not end well. At this point, there is very little to be done other than to seek new employment.