“Especially for those in a leadership role, we hope these findings underscore how important healthy workplace relationships are to shaping positive employee experiences and supporting strong health and wellness for all workers,” said Toni Frana, Lead Career Expert at FlexJobs.
FlexJobs’ survey, which ran from August 2 to August 17, 2023, explored professionals’ experiences with both toxic managers and toxic co-workers in order to better understand the prevalence of toxic behaviors in the workplace and their impact on employee well-being. Summarized findings below.
State of the Workplace: Toxic Managers
Experience with Toxic Bosses: The majority of people (87%) said they’ve had one (57%) or more than one (30%) toxic bosses or managers in their career, compared to 13% of respondents who said they’ve never had a toxic boss or manager.
When asked which qualities made a boss or manager toxic, workers overwhelmingly listed being a “poor communicator” (43%), acting “dismissively” (41%), and “micromanaging” (40%) as the top three reasons. Other factors specified were:
- Passive-aggressive behavior (40%)
- Failure to foster growth (34%)
- Rude or offensive behavior; used sarcasm and put-downs (33%)
- Had unreasonable expectations (30%)
- Didn’t praise or give credit appropriately (26%)
- Gossiped (22%)
- Lacked boundaries (21%)
- Used threats or intimidation (20%)
- Gaslighting (20%)
- Discriminatory or sexually inappropriate comments or actions (18%)
Dealing with Toxic Managers: While the majority of workers (43%) said they “quit or left” their job because of a toxic boss or manager, respondents also addressed toxic behavior by:
- Giving feedback directly to their boss, which was ignored (28%)
- Giving feedback to HR, which was ignored (21%)
- “Quiet quitting” their job (12%)
- Giving feedback directly to their boss, which was applied (11%)
- Giving feedback to HR, which was applied (8%)
Effects of a Toxic Boss: More than half (51%) of respondents said they’ve experienced “increased anxiety” as a result of having a toxic boss or manager, followed by mental fatigue (44%), and physical symptoms (33%), such as headache, stomach troubles, sleep troubles, or changes in appetite. Job performance also suffered, as specified below.
- Increased depression (32%)
- Decline in engagement (30%)
- Questioning of skill set (30%)
- Decline in productivity (24%)
- Decline in performance (24%)
- Misdirected stress on friends/family (21%)
- Imposter syndrome (16%)
Notably, “increased anxiety” and “mental fatigue” were the two leading responses across generations, signaling the far-reaching repercussions toxic behaviors from managers can impart across both new and seasoned workforces:
- Gen Z – Increased anxiety (34%), mental fatigue (25%)
- Millennials – Increased anxiety (49%), mental fatigue (41%)
- Gen X – Increased anxiety (61%), mental fatigue (55%)
- Boomers – Increased anxiety (52%), mental fatigue (43%)
State of the Workplace: Toxic Co-workers
Experiences with Toxic Co-workers: Similarly to respondents’ experiences with toxic managers, the survey found that the majority of people have also dealt with one or more toxic co-workers:
- Yes, I have had a toxic co-worker (57%)
- Yes, I have had more than one toxic co-worker (27%)
- No (16%)
When asked what made their co-worker(s) toxic, 44% said “excessive complaining and negativity,” as well as “acting unprofessionally” (41%), and “not being a team player” (40%). Other toxic traits cited were:
- Manipulative or self-serving behavior (35%)
- Lack of accountability (34%)
- Passive-aggressive behavior (33%)
- Gossiped (32%)
- Focused on blame rather than solutions (32%)
- Poor communicator (30%)
- Rude or offensive (30%)
- Lacked boundaries (29%)
- Took credit inappropriately (29%)
- Discriminatory or sexually inappropriate comments or actions (17%)
- Gaslighting (14%)
Dealing with Toxic Co-workers: Providing feedback directly to the co-worker (26%) or HR (20%), although ignored, were the leading ways people said they’ve handled a toxic colleague. Other methods included:
- Quit/left their job (16%)
- Gave feedback directly to the co-worker, which was applied (15%)
- Gave feedback to HR, which was applied (14%)
- Quiet quit (8%)
For more information, please visit https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/toxic-managers-coworkers-make-toxic-workplace or contact Shanna Briggs at [email protected].
*FlexJobs created the survey, which was promoted to general audiences and its subscribers/members primarily through social media and newsletters. FlexJobs used a multiple choice and multi-select question format via SurveyMonkey’s online platform. The survey ran from August 2, 2023, to August 17, 2023.
Demographic breakdown of the 8,487 respondents: Gender: women (65%), men (33%) prefer not to identify/self-describe (2%); Generation: Gen Z (12%), millennial/Gen Y (40%), Gen X (31%), baby boomer (16%), silent generation (1%); Education: less than a high school degree (2%), high school degree or equivalent (11%), some college but no degree (21%), associate’s degree (11%), bachelor’s degree (34%), graduate degree (21%); Career level: entry-level (11%), experienced (51%), manager (22%), senior level manager (11%), executive (5%); 43 percent had children 18 or younger living at home with them.
FlexJobs is the leading career service specializing in remote, hybrid, and flexible jobs, with over 135 million people having used its resources since 2007. FlexJobs provides the highest-quality database of vetted remote and flexible job listings, from entry-level to executive, startups to public companies, part-time to full-time. To support job seekers in all phases of their career journey, FlexJobs also offers extensive expert advice, webinars, and other resources. In parallel, FlexJobs works with leading companies to recruit quality remote talent and optimize their remote and flexible workplace. A trusted source for data, trends, and insight, FlexJobs has been cited extensively in top national outlets, including CNN, iThe Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, CNBC, Forbes magazine, and more. FlexJobs also has partner sites Remote.co and Job-Hunt.org to help round out its content and job search offerings. Follow FlexJobs on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.