With labor unionization efforts underway at Amazon and Starbucks, people quitting in record numbers and continued delays in returning to the office, workers appear to be putting their foot down when it comes to less-than-ideal work situations.

Bosses and employees alike should care about the quality of the work environment, research has shown. A 2020 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health determined a toxic workplace “can be detrimental and lead to unnecessary stress, burnout, depression, and anxiety among the workers.” Further, it found that negative employee well-being will spread to other workers and bring down the quality of the work they do.

The study also found the inverse: Employee well-being increases work performance, and a workplace that actively supports employees “brings sustainability to organizational performance.”

Basically, a toxic workplace is bad news for everyone involved.

On the workers’ end, the increased stress and depression of poor work life can also put a strain on interpersonal relationships, said Alisha Powell, a therapist whose areas of special practice include work-life balance.

“Many times employees can bring that stress home to their families, and it’s something that impacts their day-to-day life even when they’re not at work,” Powell said.
In addition to worsened mental health and strained relationships, employees may also turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the stress, said Dr. Kristen Fuller, a medical reviewer specializing in mental health and addiction with a background in family medicine.

Here, experts share how you can tell if you’re in a toxic work environment — and what to do about it.