How toxic is the modern workplace?

Have you found yourself feeling stressed and apprehensive before you’ve even set foot in the office?

You might not be alone.The UK has a problem brewing with toxicity in the workplace, and many employees are simply too afraid to speak up, fuelling power trips and exclusivity.

How can we learn to identify the red flags of toxicity in the workplace and stop it in its tracks?

Exposing toxic traits

In many cases, unfair or discriminatory behaviour can sadly be overlooked – but with evidence to prove that someone with a high degree of narcissism could be 29% faster in their career progression to CEO, this is hardly surprising.

An unhealthy culture often feeds through a business from those in managerial positions at the top and is felt the most by hardworking, humble individuals.

Thanks to an insightful study by poster printing specialist instantprint, we’ve been able to outline the red flags to look out for.


In the survey of 1,000 UK office workers, 46% reported that bullying was the most toxic trait in any workplace.

Bullying can come in many forms, including threatening or intimidating behaviour, deliberately excluding someone or a group of people, or setting unrealistic deadlines.

Over a prolonged period, bullying can be incredibly damaging to individuals and result in workplace-induced trauma.

Clique culture

A striking 45.5% of survey respondents agreed that passive-aggressive communications were the biggest red flag of a toxic workplace.

These were followed by favouritism (37.3%) and rumours and gossip (35%). These can be more prevalent when there is a problematic clique culture, a trait agreed by 37.3% of survey respondents to be the most toxic in the workplace.

Whether the signs appear in the form of angry post-it notes or sarcastic messages on Teams, we should learn to recognise and report these immature interactions.

Most toxic cities revealed

The results of instantprint’s survey demonstrated that the further north you go, the more likely you will be to encounter toxicity in the workplace – with Newcastle being the worst offender.This might come as a shock considering Geordies historically have a reputation for being friendly.

Leeds and Sheffield were determined to be the next most toxic, while the best places to work in were Southampton, London and Bristol.

How to promote a healthy company culture

It’s important to learn how to steer clear of a culture in your workplace that leaves your employees feeling drained, unmotivated or even fearful.

Implementing monthly one-to-one feedback sessions for your employees with their supervisors or managers will provide them with a clear idea of their performance and progression goals, promoting transparency and room for individual growth.

Removing pre-existing toxicity in a business is much harder than preventing it. Promote your values as early as possible and call out red flags whenever they arise.


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