• HR Expert is a monthly column addressing issues at work by HR expert Heather Talamante. 


‘Toxica’ is what we call our friends’ relationships when they keep going back for the hundredth time.

Just leave already.

What if we were talking about your workplace and not a toxic relationship? Have you found yourself dreading going to work because your workplace is toxic?

Many New Mexicans would agree with you.

HR expert Heather Talamante

Human Resources departments are fighting to fill the mountain of open positions. If they can’t compete with higher wages, they will often sell their culture to prospective candidates.

Let’s dive in and look at what might be considered a toxic workplace. If you ask several different HR leaders and then ask their employees, they might come up with different explanations. In one environment, one employee might thrive, but another might resent the very thought of showing up to work every day. Both of these employees are right; HR departments struggle to create environments where both types of employees can thrive.

I have put together a shortlist of the most common complaints many will hear from their employees. Let’s see if any of these resonate with you.

  • Cliques, Exclusion and Gossip – In my opinion, this is the most common complaint, depending on which side of these scenarios you find yourself on. It can tear down individual employees and a workplace as a whole.
  • Harassment – This is such a broad category, but often falls into physical, verbal and online. These tend to vary in severity from mild to pervasive. Social harassment has become more prevalent, especially when you layer in COVID-19 and politics. There are many opinions and they can clash within the workplace.
  • Lack of Communication – This is when communication breakdowns occur and employees feel as though they are left to pick up the pieces. Proactive communication can alleviate a large amount of double work, escalations and errors.
  • Lack of work-life balance – If your boss is consistently asking you to stay late, work more or putting you in a position to pick your employer over your family.

If this list didn’t address a toxic culture you’ve experienced, it should at a minimum highlight how many factors can go into a culture that is filled with unhappy employees.

If you find yourself in a toxic workplace, I would encourage you to speak up, and always address it before you consider leaving — shameless plug for the exhausted recruiter who has to back fill openings regularly.

I encourage you to refrain from participating in gossip and looking to your co-workers to resolve the issue.

It’s better to take the lead and notify your leadership, HR or any other function that makes sense at your organization. Doing this gives the employer the chance to make amends. If they don’t take your concerns with any sense of validity or urgency, then it’s time to take advantage of the employee market we find ourselves in now.

It’s important to feel at home when you go to work, since many of us will spend more time with our co-workers than our family. Pick a place that has respectful teams and will contribute to your life goals.