Toxic Work Environments

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McCulloch, Ashley




The notion of a toxic work environment was explored as a systemic organizational issue. Structural equation modeling of survey data from 501 participants revealed that workers’ toxicity appraisals were associated with a variety of sources of workplace toxicity, including leaders, coworkers, and aspects of one’ job and organization. Qualitative analyses of participants’ open-ended comments depicted a range from very nontoxic work environments, wherein there was respect, constructive communication between management and employees, and issues were dealt with quickly, to very toxic work environments, wherein there was abuse, difficult conditions of work, and issues were left to fester. Although management-related sources of toxicity most strongly predicted toxicity appraisals, management’s lack of involvement of workers in matters that affect them had a stronger influence on toxicity appraisals than did abusive supervision. The findings highlight the importance of taking a broad view of the workplace toxicity phenomenon, and suggest a need to shift the leadership focus in toxicity research from that of a ‘toxic leader’ to leadership that enables toxicity. To remedy a toxic work environment, interventions could involve changes to the ways in which management designs and monitors conditions of work, as well as how they react to workers’ distress. Ultimately, given the complex dynamics involved, it is more effective to prevent workplace toxicity than to remediate it; recent trends in the promotion of workplace psychological health and safety provide direction for such prevention.


Psychology - Industrial
Sociology - Organizational
Public and Social Welfare




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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