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Unhappy at work face
Unhappy employee or demotivated at working place

The Crew Coach

On average, adults spend more than 90,000 hours in their lifetime at work. Would you choose to spend those hours in a toxic work environment or a harmonious and collaborative work environment? I am sure you would prefer to go with the latter option.

But let’s be honest, you would have had to deal with difficult people at some point in your career, outdated policies/procedures and seemingly inept leaders. These challenges by no means is a walk in the park to deal with, and it is these factors that breed toxic workplace behaviours and culture.

Without the proper training and resources, we increase the likelihood of the onset of a toxic culture.

Through psycho-education, you can become influential in identifying unhelpful or inappropriate behaviours and provide practical solutions before the toxicity plagues the work environment.

Amy Edmondson, a professor in leadership and management, defines psychological safety as “the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes”.

When you have psychological safety in the workplace, people feel at ease with being themselves. Employees feel comfortable with sharing their thoughts, feelings and ideas.

They also feel that they can freely express themselves and be vulnerable without being shamed for it. Employees are not afraid to say, “today I am not ok, and I need help/support”. They trust that their employers will accept them for who they are and how they are feeling.

When employees feel comfortable in asking for help, sharing suggestions or challenging inappropriate behaviours without fear of negative social consequences, it will have a significant impact on the mental and physical health of the Crew, which will subsequently impact the guest experience.

Researchers have found that a toxic workplace has been linked to an increased rate of depression and anxiety, which can have catastrophic long term effects. Here are some additional side effects of working in a hostile environment.

Feelings of apprehension – fear of what is to come.

When you find yourself in a stressful work environment, you may often feel apprehensive about showing up for work. The thought of having to face negative people, poor attitudes and inept leadership can make each day challenging. Feelings of dread can manifest into anxiety. Anxiety is commonly associated with worries or thoughts about the future.


Have you ever felt yourself “tiptoeing” around to avoid setting off the bully in the room? Feelings of unease can also manifest into feelings of anxiety.

A sense of hopelessness.

When you and other colleagues have tried to implement or voice the need for change, getting ignored can lead to a lingering sense of discouragement, hopelessness, and despair.

Physical dis-ease

Sometimes these stressors from a toxic workplace can impact your physical health, such as heart issues, strokes, raised blood pressure, and lack of sleep or fatigue.

Toxic culture audit

You may not even realise you are working in a toxic culture if you have been so used to being in one. Here are some examples of what a toxic environment may look like:

The first sign of an unhealthy work environment is the sense that the “vibe” is off; the atmosphere is cold and hostile. You may see minimal eye contact, no smiles, no praise or gratitude and only a few necessary words being shared. There is likely to be presentism, where the Crew are just there for a salary but have no pride, commitment or enthusiasm for their work duties. As a newcomer steps onboard they will feel an oppressive atmosphere while the employees seem oblivious to it.

The second sign of an unhealthy work environment is that people are very concerned about rank and where they are placed in the hierarchy. When you step onboard they’ll be quick to tell you their title and status. Power/rank is more important to the people working in the toxic environment than the mission or vision they’re supposedly should be championing.

Extrinsic rewards are more important than success measured by other yardsticks such as crew retention, team spirit and job satisfaction.

The third sign of an unhealthy work environment is that there is no room for flexibility and adaptability. You might hear someone say “we are not changing this, this the way it has always been done” In this culture, the people’s opinion doesn’t count, you do what I say so the Crew keep their heads low and accept they have no voice.

The fourth sign of an unhealthy work environment is that HODs and Crew make up two entirely separate groups that seldom interact. It is the us versus them mentality. When they interact, it’s one-way communication in which the person of senior rank asserts commands rather than being personable, approachable and inclusive.

The fifth sign of an unhealthy work environment is that while it’s well known that Crew are unhappy, nobody talks about it openly. This usually occurs because the HODs have not done leadership training or are not open to receiving feedback. There could also be collusion happening between HODs and invested parties land-based. There is a lack of trust; without resolutions, things start to fester.

The sixth sign of an unhealthy work environment  is that there is much talk about the things people didn’t do or could have done better but little to no recognition of extraordinary effort or accomplishments that are deserving of praise.

The seventh sign of an unhealthy work environment is that people do not feel confident speaking up even when presented with unrealistic goals, unreasonable or irrational plans or ideas that they are expected to action. They prefer to keep quiet but are happy to voice their frustrations to their colleagues or friends.

The eighth sign of an unhealthy work environment is that the Crew are not given the flexibility to innovate. They are micro-managed and every task is spelled out for them. They are rewarded for task focussed accomplishments rather than for creative problem solving. If they go against the rules they are likely to get fired.

The 9th sign of an unhealthy work environment is that there is a culture of fear. Doors slam, and whispered conversations take place in the Crew corridors. Crew are fearful that their jobs could be whisked away from them. You might think. “ Am I good enough,” “have I done something wrong,” “Does the Crew like me? What did he/she say about me?”

The 10th sign of an unhealthy work environment is that there is a high Crew turnover.

Crew longevity is what we strive for; however, not an easy one to attain.  Simon Sinek, an inspirational speaker and author, asserts people dont quit jobs, but instead, they quit bosses. If there is a high Crew turnover, I would highly recommend doing 360-degree appraisals. Leaders should be regularly asking for feedback.

If your workplace matches the items on this list, your culture is either on the cusp of being toxic.

A psychologically safe workplace starts with a feeling of belonging that fulfils another basic human need: safety. When Crew feel safe, they can focus their energy and efforts on the end work goal such as providing a superior guest experience. Change needs to start with us; what behaviours can you commit to create a positive and safe working environment?

If you found this article helpful, certainly sign up for our newsletter at so that you can join our live workshops and access our complimentary resources to help you boost Crew morale, engagement and productivity.

Karine Rayson
Director at  The Crew Coach

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