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Toxic Workplaces Create Traumatised Employees And Rising Mental Health Statistics

Systemic and normalised toxic culture breeds abuse, trauma, and mental health issues

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

Toxic behaviour resides in both large and small businesses and organisations. It is difficult to identify the presence of a toxic culture during interviews or when first entering the workplace environment. When toxic behaviour is commonplace it indicates a toxic culture that is systemic and normalised.

The librarian said to a colleague “I did not attend our manager’s farewell because he was despicable, he was cruel in his bullying and handling of my complaints about harassment, bullying, and more!” With the words “Bullying is everywhere” her colleague dismissed the librarian’s statement.

Workplace’s where toxic behaviour is the norm is a breeding ground for dysfunction and confusion. There are power struggles, a lack of trust, and gang mentality is rampant. Such behaviour can sometimes use a grooming type approach and attempts to strip people of confidence, self-esteem, self-worth; to humiliate; to create compliance, dependency; to create a broken soul; to bring a person under another’s or others' control.

Photo by Sivani B on Unsplash

Keep your back to the wall

The librarian walked around the five tables that were covered with library books

Shortly the prisoners would enter the classroom to select books for loan

Looks good

She turned and set up her issuing table

Swept a quick glance around the room

Smiled, and spoke into her radio

Library to control room, library is ready to receive prisoners

The corrections officer stood at the classroom door

I’ll let them in he said

Thank you but only five at a time

Five prisoners entered the classroom, and another, another, another…

I said five at a time


This is too many


Miss, can I take these books?

The librarian sat down at the issuing table and began the loan process. She felt a hand slide down her back. Startled she looked behind her. The prisoner behind her smiled and walked away. She looked at the corrections officer. His eyes shifted from her to the prisoner, and he smiled

Photo by Asher Ward on Unsplash

Some toxic workplaces are worse than others. Behaviours, actions in these environments gravitate to criminal behaviour, and such actions are swept under the carpet and the ‘hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil’ concept encircles the relentless abuse of staff by staff.

Watch your back

The librarian said

I arrived at the Unit with my trolley stacked with boxes of library books

Two corrections officers unlocked the door

As I pushed my trolley into the room

My prisoner library assistant arrived

No tattoo covered his face or arms

Not required

We filled several tables with books

The corrections officers unlocked the door

that opened into the prisoner compound

Prisoners filed into the room

and began selecting books

When the last prisoner left the room with his books

I began packing up the remaining library books

The corrections officers left the room

I paused

Glanced to the door

My eyes narrowed

before returning to the residential manager

My voice hardened as I continued

The door to the prisoner compound was unlocked

The other door, my only safe exit was locked

I was alone in the room with the prisoner library assistant

There were almost 60 prisoners in the compound

All had access to the unlocked compound door

All had access to me

Photo by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash

Are people held to account?

Who knows!

What is known is toxic workplaces produce

Cultures of fear

of pain

of silence

Unhealthy spaces

and more than often

Broken souls

Photo by Aimee Vogelsang on Unsplash

Recent high profile cases of toxic cultures in businesses and organisations played out on screens and newspapers in millions of homes has alerted people from all walks of life to just how prolific toxic workplace culture is. Even more disturbing is the extent of abuse that employee’s are subjected too on a daily basis.

Global online connectivity, communication is enabling greater visibility on such damaging cultures, highlighting and demanding accountability and putting pressure on employers to make changes. Hopefully, changes will come.

Thank you for reading my piece on toxic workplaces and its impact. If you would like to read more from my prison series take a look below. Have a fabulous week.

My Prison Series

Dark Places Who is Friend Who is Foe

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Maryanne Marsters

Maryanne Marsters

Writer. Kia orana, I come from little islands in the biggest ocean in the world - Moana Pacific. I write of moments in lives. The voices of people, of us.