1 in 5 say work is toxic

1 in 5 say work is toxic

Toxic Workplaces: A Harmful Reality for American Workers


Do you dread going to work every day? If so, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), approximately one-fifth of American workers consider their workplaces toxic. This not only affects their productivity but also takes a toll on their mental health. With such alarming numbers, it’s clear that there is much work to be done to foster positive work environments for all workers in the nation.

The Definition and Impact of Toxic Workplaces

A toxic workplace is characterized by infighting, intimidation, and harmful behaviors that impede productivity. The APA’s survey indicates that these environments are plagued by high absenteeism, low productivity, and high turnover rates. However, the negative consequences of toxic workplaces extend beyond work-related issues; they can also significantly harm employees’ mental health. In fact, more than half of the survey participants who reported having experienced a toxic workplace felt that their mental health had been negatively affected.

Disturbing Findings: Here’s What the Survey Revealed

The survey unearthed several concerning statistics related to workplace toxicity:

  • Approximately 22% of workers overall stated that their mental health had been harmed in the workplace.
  • The incidence of workplace harassment had increased significantly, with 22% of participants reporting having experienced it in the previous 12 months, compared to 14% the year before.
  • Discrimination was also prevalent, with 22% of workers having witnessed it and 15% personally experiencing it.
  • More than 28% of employees had witnessed negative slights, insults, or jokes that devalued someone’s identity or negated their thoughts or feelings based on their identity or background.

When analyzing job types, customer/client/patient services jobs ranked highest in terms of challenges, with 31% of respondents reporting verbal abuse. Manual laborers followed closely behind at 23%, while office workers reported a rate of 22%. Shockingly, more than 1 in 10 manual laborers reported experiencing physical violence at work, compared to approximately 1 in 20 office workers and customer/client/patient services workers.

The Importance of Protection from Harm

The APA, in alignment with the U.S. Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health and Well-Being in the Workplace, emphasizes the importance of “protection from harm” as a fundamental tenet. Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees, promoting a culture free from toxicity. However, the survey results indicate that many workplaces fall short in this regard.

Progress and Improvement

Despite the concerning data, there is some hope. The survey found that mental health support in the workplace has improved compared to previous years. Approximately 77% of workers reported that they were either very or somewhat satisfied with the support they received for their mental health and well-being from their employers. Moreover, around 59% agreed that their employer provided information about available mental health resources.

The Call for Change

The survey revealed that the majority of employees value their emotional and psychological well-being. A staggering 92% believe it is crucial to work for an organization that prioritizes their well-being, while the same number emphasize the importance of employer support for employee mental health. Arthur Evans Jr., CEO of the APA, acknowledged the progress made but emphasized the need for further improvements. The increasing prevalence of toxic workplaces, coupled with rising stress levels and a lack of respect for personal time, is deeply concerning.


The survey conducted by the APA sheds light on the somber reality that many American workers face in their workplaces. Toxic environments not only hinder productivity but also have a detrimental impact on employees’ mental health. It is imperative for employers to prioritize and actively work towards creating positive work environments free from toxicity, promoting employee well-being and mental health. By fostering a supportive culture, employers can create a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce, benefiting both individuals and organizations alike.

For more information on mental health at work, visit the U.S. Department of Labor.