A new report analyses the detrimental effects that negative workplace cultures can have on employees, ranging from mental health issues to absenteeism. 

New research conducted by Culture Shift highlights that two in five workers have experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination within the workplace.

This is having significant impacts on staff morale with over two fifths (41 per cent) reporting that a bad workplace culture has affected their productivity while close to three in 10 (29 per cent) have needed to take time off.

Failure to combat toxic workplace cultures have even been shown to cause employees to leave with nearly half (42 per cent) doing so.

The report outlines that “those at the top are now being held accountable for brushing toxic cultures under the carpet”, especially in light of the rise of the Internet giving employees a platform to share their workplace experiences.

This comes as several high-profile companies such as Apple, Brewdog and Goldman Sachs have recently received backlash from staff due to alleged toxic company cultures.

Absenteeism has also been on the rise as three-quarters of staff state they have called in sick due to wanting to avoid somebody they have a negative relationship with at work.

Despite the changes that have occurred over the last year in terms of work models, the research also uncovered that problematic behaviour has actually increased as a result of being away from the physical workplace.

This report revealed that almost half (44 per cent) of staff who were surveyed have witnessed problematic behaviour (such as bullying, harassment or discrimination) at work, growing substantially from the 20 per cent from the previous year (2020).

However, the research did point to some positive developments – notably, that staff are over a fifth (22 per cent) more likely to report workplace bullying than three years prior.

Despite this, close to two-thirds (62 per cent) said they would be much more likely to do so if their company had an anonymous platform to share their negative experiences.

In light of these findings, the approach suggested to tackling negative workplace environments includes:

  • Putting people at the heart of your business strategy
  • Taking a preventative approach to protecting your culture and your people e.g. through establishing anonymous reporting for incidents of bullying or harassment
  • Creating a safe space for employees to report problematic behaviour – breaking down any barriers for those who have been at the receiving end and offering further support

Gemma McCall, CEO at Culture Shift, stated:

Problematic workplace cultures can have a long-lasting, damaging effect on the employees directly experiencing the behaviour, as well as those witnessing it.

Environments where bullying and harassment thrives often experience high levels of attrition, resulting in organisations with a deep-rooted negative culture losing great talent.

This sentiment can often filter through to external stakeholders, impacting the organisation’s reputation.

Leaders should absolutely have the safety and wellbeing of their employees at the top of their agenda for two reasons.

Firstly, protecting your people is the right thing to do. Secondly, it simply makes excellent business sense.

*This research was conducted by surveying 1,000 UK employees and this research has been compiled in Culture Shift’s “Protecting Your People” report.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.