In some businesses, high intensity, always-on work has long been a norm. One workplace was recently in the news for a presentation that said “You are ‘online’ 24/7. No exceptions, no excuses,” and “‘I don’t know’ is never an acceptable answer.”
It's not a revelation that working in conditions like this drastically increases work stress. But Donald Sull from the MIT Sloan School of Management and an expert in corporate culture, says in the linked article that this kind leadership "increases the likelihood of toxic culture.”
According to Sull, a toxic workplace culture is identified by a set of characteristics:
So, how does high-pressure become high-toxicity? The extreme demands placed on leadership and the dysfunctional management philosophy create leaders who demand everything from their subordinates. These employees react by going into survival mode. Not respected themselves, they disrespect others in the workplace and are forced into hyper-competitive habits and stop seeing their coworkers as people. Frayed nerves lead to angry, sad, and even lonely people who do not treat each other well. Somehow, employers excuse this with the line that "it's not for everyone."
It may be not for everyone, but it's likely also not profitable. Toxic workplace culture is devastating to companies' bottom lines. Turnover skyrockets in these environments, and burnout tanks productivity. Frequently, companies are forced to boost retention and talent with extreme premiums in compensation. This is an expensive way to pay for stressed-out employees.
Win together, not sink-or-swim
Workplaces can have a fast-paced, ambitious culture without resorting to pushing people to their breaking points. It starts with a vibrant workplace culture, supportive leaders, and a culture of respecting and encouraging employees. At Amazing Workplace, some things we think about for this type of culture are:
Have an intense, fast-paced workplace and want to learn more? Try our Employee Happiness Survey and start getting insights on a happier, more productive group where you are.