How diversity can alleviate a toxic workplace

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Toxic workplaces are the enemy of employee engagement, retention, and productivity.  Toxic workplaces can make employees sick, both figuratively and literally. Warning signs of a toxic workplace include: employees who are present but unengaged, are underperforming, or are often ill and feeling burnt out. One way to avoid a toxic culture is through diversity and inclusiveness.

Regardless of the industry or size of the company, toxic workplace cultures exhibit a number of shared characteristics:

  • Fear. Quiet employees who don’t speak up, offer opinions, voice concerns, or share ideas are afraid and uncomfortable. This is a tell-tale sign of a toxic culture.  In these sorts of environments harassment and discrimination thrive.

  • Strong Hierarchy. Companies with highly regimented processes and policies discourage independent decision making and stifle creativity. In these types of cultures, there is often a lack of trust between employees and management. As a result, open communication and transparency are largely absent. Often decisions are made at the top level without input from employees. This makes it impossible for employees to have a shared sense of ownership and, as a result, they are likely to be unmotivated and disengaged.

  • Silos. A toxic workplace typically has fragmented departments and workgroups. There is little collaboration or idea sharing. As a result, employees feel isolated and disconnected from the broader organization. This creates issues with employee engagement as well as duplicated work efforts across departments due to the lack of communication.

An inclusive workplace discourages the fear, poor communication, and silos that are often seen in toxic workplaces. One of the key steps to achieving a diverse and inclusive workplace is diversity training. Diversity training can enhance an organization’s corporate culture in a number of ways:

  • Acceptance of new hires. Many different groups of people make up the workforce. Individual differences go far beyond nationality and culture and extend to attributes like religion, socioeconomic status, gender identity, age, and sexual orientation. Diversity training prepares employees for the diversity that they’ll encounter in the workplace. When employees are inclusive and accepting towards everyone, regardless of their differences, the company culture will thrive.

  • Improved Collaboration. Diversity training not only educates employees about individual differences, but it also explains why unique viewpoints and perspectives are important. This creates a culture of collaboration and cooperation where employees gravitate towards working together. This creates a more engaged workforce that is more creative and productive.

  • Information Sharing. One of the hallmarks of a toxic workplace culture is a lack of communication. An important benefit of diversity training is that it increases idea sharing. When employees value the opinions and perspectives of others, they will communicate more freely. This can strengthen workplace relationships and improve collaboration.

Creating a more diverse and inclusive culture offers many benefits and can also prevent toxic workplace behaviours. A positive workplace culture is important for the engagement and productivity of employees, but it is also important to people outside of the company. Investors understand the benefits of a strong company culture and its effect on the financial bottom line. Prospective employees also care about corporate culture as it will strongly influence their decision to join a company.  It is in a company’s best interests to prioritize diversity to create a strong company culture.

Since 2003, EmployDiversity has been helping employers connect with diversity professionals through its online employment service. Post a job opening for your organization at with a just a couple clicks. And go to to read helpful articles and resources for Diversity Managers.