Employees Are Using Up Their Sick Time to Avoid a Toxic Workplace

A toxic workplace, in which harassment, bullying, discrimination, or other forms of misconduct regularly occur, is not just unpleasant to experience – it is bad for business and has a major form on productivity, notably in absenteeism. In 2021, workers in the U.S. used more than 43 million sick days due to workplace misconduct, according to a research study from Vault Platform. Once you understand the issue, you will be in a better position to make any necessary improvements for the well-being of your team. Learn more about why employees are using up their sick time to avoid a toxic workplace:


Not Feeling Comfortable or Able to Speak Up

Unfortunately, the perpetrators of workplace misconduct tend to target others in a subtle manner where there are no witnesses, making many leaders unaware they even have a toxic workplace in the first place. This can lead to victims of workplace misconduct not knowing how to handle reporting incidents. Since they don’t feel comfortable or able to speak up, they may opt to take sick days to get a break from the issues instead. 


Fear of Retribution 

Another cause for concern for employees who experience harassment in the workplace is the concern that reporting the issue will make matters worse for them if the bully finds out. A fear of retribution can result in employees seeking to avoid the workplace by taking sick time. 


Impact on Physical and Mental Health

The stress of dealing with a toxic workplace can lead to physical health issues like difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, stomach pain, and headache, as well as mental health issues, anxiety, and depression. This impact can cause chronic health issues that affect employees’ ability to do their jobs and require them to use their sick time. 


Ways to Address a Toxic Workplace:

Take a Stand – Establish a zero-tolerance policy for workplace misconduct. Make it clear it will not be allowed, and those who engage in harassment, bullying, or discrimination will be disciplined accordingly. 


Provide Opportunities for Anonymous Reporting – Communicate that employees are encouraged to report incidents of workplace misconduct and that all reports will be acted on. Consider setting up a way for employees to report anonymously if they choose, such as an online form. 


Work on Improving Company Culture – Be intentional about modeling and reinforcing positive interactions among colleagues. When hiring, assess candidates for their soft skills, especially interpersonal and communication, so you can naturally build a positive, uplifting workforce over time. 


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