Colleagues who undermine you. Toxic politics. A boss who is passive aggressive. Unreasonable demands and unsupportive co-workers. Inappropriate conversations. Unrealistic expectations. A culture of blame, back-biting and bitchiness.
In Australia, workplace health and safety legislation effectively holds employers responsible for ensuring the emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing of employees.
Mental stress claims lodged by affected employees against their employer increased by 25% from 2001 to 2011. Although the proportion of stress claims specifically relating to “poor relationships with superiors” was not reported, a Medibank Private commissioned study reported that in 2007 the total cost of work related stress to the Australian economy was A$14.8 billion; the direct cost to employers alone in stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism was A$10.11 billion.
A recent study into the impact of systemic toxic behaviours exhibited by managers found that even one or two toxic behaviours, such as manipulating and intimidating, was enough to cause significant harm to employees’ mental and physical health.
The most common toxic behaviours exhibited by managers include:
- Constantly seeks and needs praise
- Has to win at all costs
- Lapses into time consuming, self-praising anecdotes
- Charms, cultivates and manipulates
- Plays favourites
- Takes credit for others’ work
- Bullies and abuses others
- Incessantly criticises others publicly
- Has mood swings and temper tantrums
- Treats all workplace interactions as a fault-finding exercise
- Takes all decision making authority away
- Micro manages everything you do
- Promises to take action but later reneges
- Ignores requests
Impact on wellbeing
Negative consequences for wellbeing reported by participants in the study included:
Anxiety, depression, burnout, cynicism, helplessness, social isolation, loss of confidence, feeling undervalued.
Anger, disappointment, distress, fear, frustration, mistrust, resentment, humiliation.
Insomnia, hair loss, weight loss/gain, headaches, stomach upsets, viruses and colds.