A toxic workplace is more than just a job you dislike. A toxic workplace is characterised by negative and harmful behaviours, attitudes, and practices that have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing, morale, and productivity of its employees. In short, it is a workplace that does not provide psychological safety or a feeling of security to its employees.
Digital toxicity can include bullying, racism, sexism, arguing, gossip, harassment, inappropriate comments, distrust, or unwelcome jokes. Toxicity doesn’t only come in the form of behavioural problems, it can consist of procedural issues as well. This could be a lack of boundaries, unclear or unreasonable job expectations, or micro-management.
Unfortunately, the rise of the remote work environment has also created its own complex challenges. The physical distance between people can often mean that these behaviours can go under the radar or unchallenged. The use of various technologies has also blurred the boundaries between our work and personal lives, with research from SEEK showing that 20% of employees feel pressured to respond to work emails or phone calls outside of their standard work hours.
Also, how we communicate has changed from emails to instant messaging platforms making communication less formal and less professional. As with any form of online communication, it can be taken out of context or the intent misinterpreted. If you’re feeling hurt or targeted at the time or upon reflection later, this can be a sign of toxicity. These interactions or events can often have a snowball effect resulting in decreased engagement and motivation which then can flow on to impact the rest of the team aswell.
As we have outlined, the signs of toxicity are often harder to spot when working in remote team environments, however, some examples to look out for include:
Assume that the intentions were good. Oftentimes in the digital world, a message has been lost in translation or misinterpreted. So, if you approach the person in question with your concern, and how it made you feel, this can help to clear the air of any ill feelings. Addressing the problem directly and within a timely fashion can assist in the said person being more aware of their content or tone when communicating and prevent any future miscommunications from arising.
Should the issue be more severe or not resolved by speaking to the individual directly, then it may be required to go to your manager or HR. Management must be aware of any issues that are happening within their team so that they can intervene where necessary and provide the support required to affected individuals.
This relies on you being very clear on what your boundaries are and outlining these to your colleagues and manager. This could involve being clear about your work hours and that you be fully offline outside of work hours. It could also be around the number of video calls and meetings, and how you work best virtually. Convey your message with assertiveness and confidence to your colleagues and manager so they can be clear about where your boundaries lay.
This comes from more of a management level but should be a collaborative approach as to what expectations are for your team. This could be part of an onboarding process or in a team training session, where you go about creating and clarifying expectations around technology. This could cover things around how frequently you have team meetings, how prompt you need to be at responding to online messages, and how important/difficult conversations are delivered. Ensuring everyone is on the same page with expectations and team standards allows for courtesy, respect, and transparency for all team members.
Working within a virtual environment it is crucial to place a high level of importance on creating digital wellness amongst the team. What is digital wellness? It’s all about the conscious use of technology to optimise our potential. It’s about utilising technology as a tool to succeed without letting it take over every part of our day.
If you're an employee looking to Seek further support, or an employer looking for additional information below are a number of resources that may be of assistance.
Emily has a background in corporate sales and recruitment. Experience, that allows her to understand businesses and people, and to create compelling copy and content that showcases just that.
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