Employers must stop the rot of the toxic workplace

Speaking last month while launching the #AppleToo movement, security engineer Cher Scarlett said she decided to collect and publish the toxic workplace stories of current and former Apple colleagues because leaders within the business were “not holding themselves accountable” for internal company hatred.

That this has emerged within what is arguably the tech industry’s most secretive company reflects the extent to which the power dynamic is shifting away from employers in favour of workers. It should be a wake-up call for organisations that continue to shirk responsibility for bullying, harassment, and similarly destructive behaviour within the workplace.

A survey conducted recently by UK-based Instantprint found that while the majority of 1,000 people questioned were reasonably happy in their current workplace, nearly 70 per cent said they experienced a toxic work environment at some point in their careers. Not surprisingly, more than half – 56% – said they would likely leave their job because of a negative workplace culture.


The key red flags for toxicity were bullying, passive-aggressive communications, clique behaviour and favouritism. Men were more likely to report bullying as the biggest warning flag, whereas women felt it was passive-aggressive communication.

Certain sectors are also perceived as more susceptible to a negative environment, with marketing, advertising and public relations ranked top by virtue that 87.5% of those working in these industries said they had experienced a toxic workplace. This was followed by environment and agriculture (85.7%), healthcare (80.7%) and charity and voluntary work (75.9%).

Workplace culture has been side-lined throughout much of the pandemic as employers and staff have focused on adjusting to new ways of working. But with many staff now beginning to return to the office after a long absence, employers need to establish a clear way to combat poisonous conduct.

READ MORE: Home truths about cutting pay for remote workers

Bosses must know how to identify and handle toxic behaviour at all levels, particularly among mid-level management. Recognising the symptoms and treating the problem early is the most reliable route to halting its septic spread.

With more than 500 stories of discrimination, harassment and retaliation already prepped for online publication, #AppleToo has some way yet to run. Other organisations with similar rot at the core need to start rooting it out now lest staff take matters into their own hands.

Search the latest jobs in Scotland at s1jobs.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992