How to deal with a negative work environment

by Vaishali Badgujar
Negative work environment

Wondering how to deal with a negative work environment?

Businesses are increasingly becoming competitive, and there is a massive list of challenges that you have to deal with every single day. 

And between all the pressure to perform, the last thing you want is to walk into a negative workplace environment that causes unwanted stress and tension.

In this article, we’ll discuss what creates a negative work environment and provide solutions to help you detoxify it.

This article covers:

(Click on the links below to go to a specific section)

Let’s dive in.

What is a negative work environment?

A negative work environment is a toxic ambiance in the workplace created by the employees, the job, or the culture and values of a company. 

A negative environment can grow and spread in even the most employee-oriented companies and can be really challenging to deal with.   

However, by identifying the cause of the negativity and following the right strategies, employers can prevent its spread in the workplace.

What creates a negative work environment and how to detoxify it?

Let’s look at the signs of a toxic workplace and the measures you can take to transform into a healthy workplace:

1. Communication gaps

Communication Gap

In today’s global economy where remote work is the new normal, you still have physical, cultural, geographical, and interpersonal differences that can cause communication gaps.

However, a lack of communication, or even too much communication, can sabotage the growth of a business. 


Let’s take a look at how poor communication can affect the entire company:

  • If goals are not communicated clearly, employees will have no sense of direction. This can lead to disconnected and disengaged employees.
  • When different employees in the hierarchy receive different messages, it can cause unnecessary project delays.
  • Regularly communicating with your team after office hours or weekends can lead to increased work stress and burnout.

How can you bridge communication gaps?

Here’s how you can establish proper communication at the workplace:

  • Communicate the company vision and the monthly/yearly goals to your employees. 
  • Define which communication channels, like email, Slack, etc., each employee should use.
  • Encourage employees to give feedback to their senior managers.
  • Promote transparency in the workplace by sharing accomplishments, milestones, and metrics (net profit, loss, etc.)

Check out our guide on solving 5 deadly communication barriers.

2. Work-life imbalance

If employees have to be on the clock all the time, they can feel like they’re dealing with a negative work environment that prioritizes work over their well-being.

Employees need time to re-energize so that they can be more productive. 

Not only does overworking affect their mental health, but it can take a toll on their physical health too. 

Here’s how work-life imbalance can affect an employee:

  • They face chronic exhaustion and stress.
  • They might get insomnia as a result of increased anxiety.
  • They might show physical symptoms like excessive weight gain or loss.

Such negative aspects of overworking also leave employees frustrated, creating workplace toxicity over time.

How do you promote a healthy work-life balance?

To ensure a balanced and positive workplace environment, here’s what you can do:

  • Don’t encourage your employees to work during off time
  • Conduct workshops on workplace stress management and resilience-building
  • Improve workplace flexibility by allowing employees to work from home and to choose their work hours.
  • Use productivity management tools like Time Doctor to track how much time employees spend on work. Ensure that they don’t work over a fixed amount of hours each week to have a healthy work-life balance. 

3. Poor leadership

Poor leadership is one of the key reasons for a toxic work culture. 

Leaders who can’t inspire team members or give direction to the team could lower employee morale.


An ineffective leader might lose the respect and trust of their team. As a result, team members wouldn’t be motivated to work under them.

What are the signs of poor leadership?

  • Micromanagers who control even the tiniest details of their employee’s work.
  • Bullies who pick on other employee’s mistakes and harass them.
  • Narcissists who lack empathy for their team members.
  • Absentee leaders who don’t take charge, don’t guide their team and ask the members to do everything on their own.  

How can you improve leadership in the workplace?

For a positive workplace culture, leaders have to empathize with their employees’ problems and steer them in the right direction. 

To ensure effective leadership in your organization, you should:

  • Determine the cause of poor leadership and consistently evaluate the leader’s performance. 
  • Create a work culture that doesn’t expect leaders to make autonomous decisions all the time. It isn’t just employees, but leaders too require support and feedback to grow and improve.
  • Invest in the leadership development skills of your managers and train them for their job roles. 
  • Encourage managers to embrace a positive attitude in the workplace.

4. No potential for growth

A lot of employees who are serious about their work, want to increase their skills. 

They prefer a work culture that aids their personal growth and supports their aspirations.

However, when employers only focus on profit, they often neglect the needs of their employees. This can create an unengaged and toxic workplace culture for the employees. 


Companies have to give employees space to showcase their potential. Otherwise, they might feel dissatisfied with their work or question their worth at the workplace. 

How do you create a growth culture?

It’s important to keep your employees engaged in order to maximize their potential and decrease employee turnover.

Here’s how you can achieve that:

  • Challenge your employees by giving them complex tasks and projects.
  • Allow your employees to try new approaches to accomplish the same old tasks.
  • Offer development programs and courses to boost their skills.
  • Ensure that your recruiters hire people who are passionate about work and whose values align with your company culture.

5. Low employee engagement or hypercompetition

Competition can be a sign of a healthy workplace environment. 

However, it needs to be balanced. 

Both unchallenged burnout and fierce competition are bad for the workplace.


If employees aren’t challenged enough, they won’t be motivated to work for the company. They might even leave their jobs to advance their careers elsewhere.

On the other hand, if employees are expected to deliver more than they are capable of, they might fail, and consequently, suffer a blow to their self-esteem.

How do you ensure a healthy competition in the workplace?

To encourage a positive work environment, here are three things you could do:

  • Set goals that push your employees to compete against their previous efforts.
  • Promote or give more responsibilities to employees who deliver more than what is expected of them.
  • Give more training to employees who consistently underperform.
  • Encourage your entire team to engage in competitive team sports or games outside the workplace like ping pong, air hockey, etc.

But how do you gauge their performance?

With a productivity management tool like Time Doctor, you can get detailed reports of your employees’ performance to make data-driven decisions.

For example, you can use Time Doctor’s Activity Summary Report to help you understand how your team members spend their work hours over a period of time.

6. Toxic workplace behavior

Another red flag of a hostile workplace is negative employee behavior.

Toxic employees don’t take their job role seriously. They often disrupt work and create an atmosphere of unpleasantness.  

Additionally, their bad behavior de-energizes and affects the performance of other employees, and causes unnecessary delays.

Some examples of toxic behavior include:

  • Bullying other employees.
  • Forming cliques, exclusion, and rumor-mongering.
  • Insubordination and disruptive conduct.
  • Absenteeism and procrastination.

It is important to pay immediate attention to irresponsible and unprofessional behavior in the workplace. Otherwise, dysfunction, paranoia, and distrust among employees would increase — creating a toxic workplace for all employees. 

How do you deal with toxic employee behavior?

Here are a few steps you can take to deal with toxic employee behavior effectively:

1. Set clear expectations

Confront the worker about their behavior. Mention specific examples of their toxic behavior and tell them why it’s inappropriate and unacceptable in the workplace.

2. Work towards a solution

Try to understand what causes the employee’s negative behavior, stay positive about the conflict resolution, and make yourself available for them to overcome that challenge.

3. Warn them

Set clear consequences of what would follow if they fail to meet the company expectations within an agreed timeframe. 

4. Monitor their behavior and follow-through

Keep a tab on the employee’s performance and their progress. If there’s a positive change in their behavior, appreciate them for their achievements. If they fall back on their old habits, send them a stern warning about the same.

5. Employment termination

If the worker still fails to rectify the behavior, consider employment termination

It is better to discharge the toxic person than stick with them and make the work environment toxic for everyone.

Why should companies avoid a toxic work environment?

While it’s clear by now why companies should avoid a toxic environment in the workplace, let’s take a closer look at some of the key reasons:

1. Impacts your employees’ mental health

mental health

A toxic workplace culture impacts the emotional well-being of all employees — making it harder for them to concentrate or engage in the workplace. 

Some employees might have to  put in extra effort to meet deadlines or complete tasks and projects to deal with the issues in an unhealthy workplace environment.

Additionally, a poor work-life balance would also affect their personal life.


Employees can’t just go home and switch from a negative mindset to a positive one. 

Spending all day in a negative work environment means that their happiness and contentment outside of work will also be negatively affected.

2. High turnover rate

Employees who work in a toxic culture feel undervalued and unappreciated

Whether it’s dealing with a bad boss or a toxic coworker’s incivility, they are dissatisfied with their jobs and unhappy at their workplace. 

If you keep ignoring the negative work environment, your employees may start planning their exit strategy and might be on the lookout for a new job.

3. Affects the employer brand

The employer brand is the culture and values of a company that is presented to the public. 

A company’s brand has a significant impact on its ability to hire top talent in the industry. 

Employees in negative working conditions will not highlight their company in a favorable light outside the company. This will hurt your employer brand, and in turn, impact your company’s ability to hire industry experts.

4. Poor customer satisfaction

In an environment of harassment, workplace bullying, and toxic behavior, employees don’t trust or support each other. 

Instead, they waste time in conflicts, fail to meet their responsibilities, and disappoint clients and customers. Poor customer satisfaction will damage your company’s reputation and eventually hurt the bottom line.

Final thoughts

Your company’s work environment can be your biggest strength or weakness. 

A good and robust working environment is one that’s enjoyable for employees and gives them the space to perform their best. 

However, you should keep a lookout for any signs of toxic behavior — as this negative culture is bad for both the employer and the employee.

Keep in mind that eliminating negativity in your workplace isn’t a one-and-done deal. 

To ensure a healthy work environment, companies have to be vigilant of the warning signs and consistently encourage healthy workplace practices.

So start today and use the tips we covered here to create a healthy workplace environment for you and your employees.

View a free demo of Time Doctor

help managers focus on what matters most
time doctor ratings

Related Posts