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Can Toxic Work Environment Cause Anxiety?

2022-09-08
Can Toxic Work Environment Cause Anxiety?

No one comes to work with the intention of becoming anxious. However, overly toxic workplaces can cause anxiety in even the most stalwart employee.

What are the signs that you might be working in a toxic environment, and what you can do to mitigate the effects? Read on for tips on both recognizing and dealing with workplace toxicity.

What Is a Toxic Work Environment?

A toxic workplace is characterized by negative, harmful, or simply unpleasant conditions. This can include anything from a hostile or uncivil employee to unhealthy physical conditions.

Toxic work environments can have a number of negative effects on employees, including increased stress levels, anxiety, and depression. In extreme cases, it can even lead to physical harm.

What Causes Anxiety in Toxic Work Environment

Anxiety in the workplace is not uncommon. A study found that in the UK in 2020-2021 stress, depression, or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related illnesses. Work-related anxiety was most prevalent in the education, health, and social work sectors. [1]

Another study showed that the main factors contributing to work-related stress were related to a toxic environment at work - pressure, tight deadlines, and a lack of managerial support. [2]

Here, we list a few more factors that can cause anxiety in a toxic workplace:

  • Poor work-life balance. Only 52% of American workers believe their employers value work-life balance. [3] The chronic stress of working long weeks can lead to mental and physical health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and anxiety. Furthermore, if you have a poor work-life balance, you are likely to miss out on important aspects of your life, such as time with family and friends or hobbies.
  • Bullying. Common signs of bullying at work can range from innocent office gossip to more serious disruptions, such as constantly being belittled. This can lead to feelings of anxiety and insecurity which make it difficult to focus on work tasks and can even lead to absenteeism. In severe cases, workplace bullying can lead to a diagnosable anxiety disorder.
  • Inadequate resources, such as understaffing or insufficient training, can also lead to anxiety. In these cases, employees may feel that they are not well-equipped to handle their responsibilities, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy and incompetence.
  • Culture of fear. Among the signs of a toxic workplace is seeing employees that are constantly afraid of being reprimanded or fired. This creates poor communication and hostile work environments of suspicion and distrust, which can further contribute to anxiety.

How to Deal with Anxiety Caused by Toxic Work Environment

An older study revealed that 72 percent of workers who had daily anxiety, said it interfered with their lives in a significant way.

In addition, 30 percent of anxious and stressed employees have taken prescription medication to manage mental health issues. Furthermore, 28 percent of anxious employees have had an anxiety attack. [4]

Therefore, if you find yourself in a toxic workplace, it is important to take immediate action to protect your mental health. Here are a few examples of what you can do:

  • Identify the source of your anxiety. Is it your boss? A difficult co-worker? The work itself?
  • Talk to your boss or the human resources department. Those in a leadership position may be unaware of the effect that their behavior is having on you, and the HR department can help to mediate the situation and create more positive outcomes for your situation.
  • Take care of yourself outside of work. Spend time with friends and family, pursue hobbies, and exercise regularly. Taking care of yourself will help to reduce the effects of a toxic atmosphere at work and protect your mental health.
  • Contact a mental health professional. A mental health professional can provide you with valuable tools and resources to help you manage your anxiety. They can also help you identify any triggers that may be contributing to your anxiety and provide you with support and guidance as you navigate your career.
  • Leave a toxic job. A report revealed that 63% of employees were ready to quit their jobs due to workplace stress. [5] If you are considering making such a decision, first, evaluate your workload. If you are constantly feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to move on. Second, take a look at a few signs of toxic work relationships, like being constantly belittled or taken advantage of. Does it sound familiar? Then it is time to find a healthier workplace.

Conclusion

Research shows that more than 20% of the workforce spend more than 5 hours per day worrying about stressors. [6]

With the increasing amount of studies on the topic of mental health issues at work, it’s important to acknowledge that being in a toxic workplace leads to anxiety in employees.

If you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, it may be worth your time to explore whether your workplace atmosphere is contributing to those symptoms.

There are many things you can do to create a more positive and supportive environment, and we hope this article has given you some ideas about how to get started.

Resources

1 Work-related stress, anxiety or depression statistics in Great Britain, 2021. https://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/causdis/stress.pdf

2 Work-related Stress, Anxiety and Depression Statistics in Great Britain 2015. https://consult-smp.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/report-UK-stress-at-work.pdf

3 American Psychological Association, 2013. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2013/03/employee-needs

4 Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 2006. https://adaa.org/workplace-stress-anxiety-disorders-survey

5 Errera, 2022. https://www.tonerbuzz.com/blog/workplace-stress-statistics/

6 Colonial Life, 2019. https://www.coloniallife.com/about/newsroom/2019/march/stressed-workers-costing-employers-billions