Toxic Work Environment
60% of professionals admit to "rage-applying" to new roles because of frustrating and toxic work environment. Eden Health

In a recent Businessolver poll, 52% of CEOs believe their company culture is toxic. This figure marks a significant 10 per cent increase since 2023 and is notably higher than the roughly one-third of workers who also reported experiencing a harmful work environment.

Businessolver, a company specialising in technology for distributing employee benefits, also found that individuals who perceive their surroundings as unpleasant are 47 per cent more likely to suffer from mental health disorders.

Generational Differences in Mental Health Impact

The poll revealed a stark contrast between generations regarding the impact of workplace culture on mental health. While only 38 per cent of baby boomers reported experiencing mental health problems due to their job, a striking 65 per cent of Gen Z employees indicated that their mental health was adversely affected by their work environment.

The research emphasises the responsibility of CEOs in tackling issues related to toxic workplace cultures. Rae Shanahan, Businessolver's Chief Strategy Officer, highlighted that company executives often underestimate the influence managers have on their teams. "The CEO can't fix it, but the CEO can certainly set the stage," Shanahan explained, noting that business anxiety often leads to workplace toxicity and that solutions must begin at the top.

CEOs Facing Mental Health Challenges

While CEOs are under pressure to address toxic work environments, they are also grappling with their own mental health issues. Businessolver's findings revealed that 55 per cent of CEOs were dealing with personal mental health challenges—a substantial 24 per cent increase from the previous year.

Despite this high incidence of mental health issues among leaders, there has been no significant shift in how individuals with mental health problems are perceived within organisations. The study indicated that CEOs were the most likely to agree that businesses view employees with mental health issues as "weak" or a "burden." A significant 80 per cent of CEOs shared this view, as did 72 per cent of HR specialists and more than 65 per cent of employees.

Study Overview

The study, conducted between mid-February and early March in the US, surveyed approximately 3,100 workers, including 400 CEOs.

Shanahan suggested that some CEOs might fear that showing empathy could make them appear weak and that they struggle to balance promoting a positive work environment while also meeting the demands of shareholders and running a company. "Sometimes people feel like if you talk about empathy, that you're being soft and you can't hold people accountable," Shanahan noted.

Strategies for Mitigating Workplace Toxicity

To address workplace toxicity, Shanahan recommended that businesses should consider treating employees more like customers to gain a better understanding of their work culture. She also suggested that user-experience teams, typically focused on product and service development, could be utilised to assess how a company treats its employees.

Further solutions to combat workplace toxicity could involve directly addressing employees' needs for improving their mental health. About 90 per cent of workers agreed that policies such as open-door communication, flexible work schedules, and encouraging time off were crucial for supporting their mental well-being.

"If we have people that are performing — let's deal with the outliers, but let's treat the vast majority as adults and let them integrate their work and their home life," Shanahan advised.