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Is the American workplace sheltering a hidden crisis?

It’s natural and understandable for the news to cover major crises, and many of them deeply affect our lives and our workplaces. However, once those crises abate and you go back to your normal routine, will you find yourself secretly immersed in yet another crisis?

As suggested by a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, an HR thinktank, toxic workplace cultures present a looming crisis. They squander hundreds of billions of dollars and harm millions of workers. And as an employee of the federal government, the nation’s largest employer, you may recognize many of the problems the survey highlights.

Adding up the costs of discrimination and harassment

The survey found that when toxic workplaces lead to worker dissatisfaction, businesses suffer from employee turnover and absenteeism. The cost? Roughly $223 billion per year. But that’s just the cost to the employers. Workers suffer too. Discrimination, harassment, retaliation and other behaviors that may render a culture toxic can hurt your career. They can take a toll on your psychology and make you fear the idea of going to work each day.

In fact, the survey found that:

  • 26% of all employees claimed they dreaded the thought of going to work
  • Roughly 20% had left a job due to a toxic workplace within the past five years, and nearly half had thought about leaving their jobs
  • 58% of those who left a job because of the culture said their manager was the main source of their problems
  • 25% said they didn’t feel safe to speak out about work issues
  • Approximately 30% of surveyed employees said their toxic workplaces made them irritable at home

Of course, these statistics may owe to such problems within the office as sexual harassment and age discrimination. But they may also relate to discrimination that shapes the office before people even start working. For example, a 2017 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that people with disabilities were twice as likely to remain unemployed. Many veterans and military support groups have noted how veterans have also struggled to gain acceptance with civilian employers.

The only solution is to call out bad employers

If you find yourself trapped in a toxic workplace, you might start scanning the employment ads for new opportunities. This is a perfectly reasonable response. But why should you be the one to change? Why should you switch gears mid-career, accepting whatever setbacks that may entail?

You shouldn’t have to be the one who suffers. You have a right to a fair and safe workplace, free from harassment and discrimination. So do the people who would follow you. Leaving your current job may improve your circumstances, but it won’t change your workplace. The only way to do that is to call out the bad actors.

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