A Toxic Workplace Doesn’t Just Disappear When You Work From Home

Angry Hispanic businessman working with laptop computer in office, losing patience.
diego_cervo / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Over the past year, millions of American workers have been working away from their offices, but it hasn’t always been an escape from office politics. Instead, it scrambled them. Toxicity and drama play out online instead of in person.

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A  BBC story includes a definition of a toxic work culture from Aditya Jain, a professor at Nottingham University Business School in England: one where workers are exposed to psychosocial hazards, such as lack of organizational support, poor interpersonal relationships, high workload, or lack of autonomy.

Working at home may have led to increased autonomy while allowing people to partially avoid some of their toxic co-workers. It also came with limited organizational support and, in many cases, increased workload. 

Pandemic workers tried to find a place at home where they could work and store their office supplies, and anyone they lived with was trying to do the same thing. Bosses couldn’t make passive-aggressive or hostile comments in the hallways, but they sure could in email or on video calls.

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Technology made it easy to see what workers were doing. Some companies installed monitoring apps, others simply had managers ask workers to share screens frequently. Those out of favor could be kept out of a Slack channel as easily as they could be uninvited to lunch.

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The economy is improving and pandemic restrictions are ending. Those fortunate workers who were able to escape office politics by working at home are likely to want to stay at home.

Those who had toxic workplaces to deal with on top of pandemic fatigue will be sending out their resumes and asking hard questions about remote management practices.

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About the Author

Ann Logue is a writer specializing in business and finance. Her most recent book is The Complete Idiot’s Guide: Options Trading (Alpha 2016). She lives in Chicago.

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