4 min read

How to fight back to toxicity in the workplace.

How to fight back to toxicity in the workplace.

Header image (credits: Unsplash @headwayio)

We're gonna talk about what is toxic behavior who is toxic person in the workplace.

Toxicity is basically an attitude that damages goodwill in the environment.  We'll look deeper what are the reasons behind toxicity in  the workplace. If you are managing a team or company. I hope this article helps !

Arbitrary - Intuitive Decisions

Intuitive decisions are not always bad decisions. But people like to see they belong to a team-company that moves by reason, not emotions or thoughts.

As human being we like to see what we're doing actually matters. If connection between task and business benefit is clear, it will create work engagement.

On the contrary side, if people do things because you want them to do without customer or business based reasons, they will accomplish tasks to get your endorsement.

Personal endorsements are cheap rewards. It supports individualism. It doesn't create toxicity in the work, but it creates environment for it.

Make sure your people understand the "why?" of the organization. It supports team awareness which reduces the reasons for the toxicity.


User stories are the best evidence of how your team's effort converted to a value on the user's end.

Overwhelming Sprints - Processes

Stress is in the nature of work. No escape! But if you keep the stress for a long time without rest, burnout is inevitable.

Two things come up in overwhelming workplaces.

  • Technical Debt
  • Psychological Debt.

There are many consequences of these but I will talk about how they are related to toxicity.

Good engineers-developers know how risky is the technical debt. So when you shrink the timeline in your task management software with a slider,  consider that you are leaving a huge debt behind.

There are still things that have to be done for sake of quality assurance but since you put time pressure, developers will leave some technical debt behind. Technical debt will bring anxiety to the technical team. (If you are developing an MVP it could be reasonable to have technical debt.)

There is also psychological debt. Consider that people can take stress up to a point, there is a state called "burnout" in which people can't do anything. They can't work, they can't think.

Let's say someone can do X unit jobs in a month. If you try to get X + 10 jobs done this month. Probably you will get X-10 next month. His/her mental power will be reduced. It's a zero-sum game. Rest is part of work.

I should mention that it might be necessary that everyone should put X+10 that month. There could be a very important deadline. That's okay but if you want always more and more from your employees. They will be always worried about tight schedules which increase anxiety and also they will feel they can't be enough after a while. Therefore they will be frustrated.

Anxious and frustrated employees are vulnerable to toxicity. Sometimes they can be the source of toxic as well.

What to do?

Be careful about technical debt. Always listen to your principal engineers and senior developers. If you are developing a new system, don't negotiate a lot about time with the development team. Don't push them to give unrealistic timelines. You will be the one who is losing credibility in front of users when you couldn't deliver at the time.

I know there is always stress coming from the market or executives to deliver things in a short time. Stress is a good thing if you can use it properly. Constant stress will bring anxiety and frustration. Keep yourself and your team in a flow.  If this week was too busy keep next week a bit relaxed.

Lack of communication

We see most of the time that toxic attitudes are the cumulative output of suppressed thoughts and emotions.

People suppress some thoughts if they don't find a proper communication channel. They vomit all of their thoughts when they feel filled. Their toxicity might spread among the team.

What should we do?

Don't lead all conversations.

It's really difficult to keep the balance between leading and friendly relations with teammates. If you can't lead the conversations, the team might have some doubts about your leadership. If you lead all conversations then the team might feel dominance over them and they might hesitate to argue with you.

It's a difficult job to keep that balance. I don't have a clear answer for this, but consider that the best leaders are the ones who take their teams to success. You reduce the risk on the path to success by listening to your teammates. So let your team has a strong voice so they can give you some hints before things get stuck.

1:1 meetings are important

There could be things that they can't say in team meetings. It's good to sit with teammates individually from time to time. So they can reveal things before they accumulate.

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All the best,