Why Company Culture Matters

Toxic Cultures Are Killing People- Our People

Camille R. Wallace

You don’t have to work with heavyweight machinery, hazardous chemicals, or be on dangerous front lines for your job to be killing you.  Every day, people are subjected to premature death as they report to plush offices with standing desks.

Farfetched? Not at all.

A toxic workplace, by definition — is unhealthy and damaging to those who work there. Bad workplace cultures lead to bad health- and even death. According to Stanford University Research, toxic workplaces are the 5th leading cause of death! Surprising? That means stress from the workplace is causing death at a higher rate than Alzheimer’s and kidney disease.

Consider the experiment involving the performance of simple house plants. For 30 days, one plant was spoken to everyday with encouraging words, affirmations, and recognition. This plant thrived and bloomed beautifully. The second plant was also spoken to everyday, but with a very different demeanor. This plant was criticized, spoken to with contentment, even bullied. As a result, this plant appeared wilted with dying leaves.

According to research conducted at Stanford, stress from the workplace is causing death at a higher rate than Alzheimer’s and kidney disease.

While the experiment’s validity is questionable, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Environment matters. Just like the plant in the first example, when our workplace cultures are healthy, supportive and positive- our employees live, thrive, and grow. Gleaning from the example of the second plant, if the workplace environment is toxic, more specifically, if the company culture is damaging, it can be lethal to our employees’ health. More than just combat the negative ramifications, despite the underlying dysfunction, we expect employees to rise above the toxicity in order to perform.

Every day, people face dysfunctional workplace cultures. They report each morning to companies and leadership that provide no clear vision of the future, let alone meaningful purpose of the employee’s contribution. Like the second plant, employees navigate through cutthroat colleagues, perhaps feel unseen and unheard yet overworked, and likely feel unsafe reporting to supervisors which manage through fear tactics.

Research has linked 120,000 deaths to workplace stress every year. Dreading going into the workplace is impacting people physically, emotionally, and relationally, including, but not being limited to not being able to sleep, gaining weight, increased medical problems, anxiety and depression. It is no surprise that these stressors have a direct relationship with individuals’ behaviors like smoking, overeating,            alcohol consumption and drug abuse, therefore impacting our employees’ lives and decreasing their mortality. 

As it stands, life is short enough. Companies must not shorten it by unnecessary, unchecked, unmanaged, perhaps even, unintentional toxic workplace cultures.

To learn how to transform your workplace, pick up your copy of “The Special Sauce: The Recipe for Creating a Desirable Company Culture.” Coming Fall 2021.