How is a workplace toxic?  Let me count the ways!

OK, that’s a little dramatic, but there’s a lot of examples of behaviors and attitudes that make workplaces absolutely insufferable and sometimes destructive.  In my last blog post, I talked about my Toxic Top 20 featured in my book The Arsonist in the Office and discussed the first 5 ways to decide if a workplace is toxic.  Seeing one of these twenty does not necessarily mean you’re working in toxic conditions, but if the evidence mounts, you might have a problem.

Here are numbers 6-10 on my Top 20. Let me know what you think!

6.  Cutting, personal, hurtful barbs and teasing are commonplace. Things get personal quickly if a culture lacks standards. It is delivered like a joke, but it feels like an insult to the recipient.

7.  Blistering emails fly. The internet is forever and the life of nastygrams is, too.

8.  Employee humiliation is common and often used right out in the open in meetings and group emails.

9.  Processes and policies are ignored in place of pulling things out of thin air to match the circumstance. Somewhere in an MBA program, someone must have written a book on ‘Management by CYA’.  Whether it’s the need to ‘tell lies to cover up the last round of lies’ or ‘set one fire to distract people from the last fire set’, managers in toxic conditions are stuck with a game of deception.  They cannot justify their actions based on the existing standards, so they just create new ones.

10. Insults are in; constructive criticism is out. Evaluations and helpful corrective opportunities morph into run- ins with a crazy ex.

Sound familiar?  Let me know what you think!

Pete Havel is a speaker, trainer and consultant on workplace culture and leadership issues. He’s the author of “The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees, and Cultures.” It can be purchased HERE.

To contact Pete, contact him at 214-244-7906 or at

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