How to tackle ‘toxic’ culture in your workplace

How to address toxic culture in the workplace?

The issue, researchers say, has become one of the most pressing challenges of our times. 

The research by the Centre for Research on Women and Work, which examined more than 2,300 women and men across the UK, revealed a wide range of experiences in the workforce that can be linked to the “toxic” behaviour that is “one of the worst forms of gender inequality”.

In a wide-ranging paper published today (21 March) in the journal Social Science Research, the researchers, led by Professor David Poulter of Durham University, found that “toxically sexist” workplace culture is often a product of an ingrained belief system that perpetuates male entitlement and power, and can result in men taking greater responsibility for managing women’s work.

“We’ve come a long way from the era of the ‘glamour industry’, when men were viewed as the ‘gold standard’ of success and women were judged on how much money they made,” Prof Poulters told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“The beauty industry is still dominated by men.

It is an industry that is so deeply entrenched in men’s thinking, so ingrained in how they look at women, how they think they should act, and it is one of those industries where you would think it would be much easier for men to work there, because you’re not going to see it from a female perspective.”

There is a very strong idea in our society that men are not going into this field because it’s a masculine occupation and women are going into it because it is a feminine occupation.”‘

Toxic’ workplaces have been blamed for the suicide of nearly 20,000 women in the past decade, but Prof Poulster said that was a result of the lack of female involvement in the work environment.”

If you look at the number of suicides among the workforce, we have almost doubled since 2010, and there is no evidence that the suicide rate among women has been declining,” he said.”

It is true that women are being discouraged from entering the workforce and that it is an environment that is toxic.

“But it is also true that it has been shown to be an environment where women are not being given the opportunities they need to succeed and to thrive.”‘

Ruthless’ sexism is part of a wider “culture of victimisation” which is driving many women to suicide, the authors of the paper argued.

“Women who experience toxic work environments are more likely to experience feelings of victimization and distress, as well as feeling isolated, devalued and mistreated,” they said.

Prof Poults study found that while the majority of men were able to overcome “toxicity”, there were some individuals who experienced “toxin fatigue”, with the “ruthless” sexism of the workplace driving some women to take their own lives.

“In our experience, women who experience toxicity experience a range of symptoms and distress that include feelings of being undervalued and mistook for victims, a sense of loss and betrayal, a loss of control and self-esteem, and, in some cases, suicidal ideation,” the researchers wrote.

“These symptoms and issues are commonly associated with anxiety disorders and mood disorders.”

Professor Poulsters research was supported by the Medical Research Council and the UK Government’s Gender Equality Partnership. Source RTE