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Abusive work culture is common, but there are ways to handle it, say experts

Toxic work culture and abusive bosses are common but that doesn’t mean you need to keep mum

Bishwabijoy Mitra | Published 09.06.23, 05:35 PM
For representational purposes

For representational purposes

iStock photograph

Pushpal Roy has become a household name for all the wrong reasons over the past few weeks. The viral video of the senior official of a leading private bank has sparked talk about toxic work culture and abusive managers, with many confessing they have had similar experiences in the workplace.

Regardless of profession, most netizens agree that everyone has had to encounter at least one Pushpal Roy in their lifetime!


Part of corporate life

Subhasish Dutta (name changed on request), a structural designer at a multinational company, wrote on social media, “Pushpal Roys exist in many companies… I have encountered one such variant in one of my previous companies. Incidents like this happen every day but very few are reported. Employees tolerate such rude and inhuman mental torture but refrain from reporting the same fearing retaliation. Whereas, few others end up sucking up to them to remain in their good books. Many companies like to employ and prefer people like Roy as they think such persons can make others work. Abusing and disrespecting others may get you fame and position in life but people will remember you as a plague on humanity and nothing else…”

When My Kolkata contacted Dutta, he narrated some horrific tales. “My boss and I used to live in the same area and would often take the same bus to office. Invariably, I would have to buy his ticket (Rs 50) too and if I ever asked for money he would say, ‘How dare you ask money from your senior’. Apart from this, office politics and outright rude behaviour was a part of the daily routine,” Dutta recalled.

In many cases, employees in target-oriented professions are subjected to unthinkable abuse. Sales personnel, bankers and tele-callers often experience situations and language that is more than toxic. Paramita Saha, a sales executive, recounted her experience. “At one of my previous companies, I had this team lead who verbally abused us in the morning meetings every day. She would target our personal lives, our families and our financial background. One month, when I failed to meet my target, she accused me of not working properly and going out with my boyfriend after office hours. Those eight months were horrible,” Paramita added.

Effects of toxic work culture

For representational purposes

For representational purposes

iStock photograph

Corporate counsellors say toxic work culture and abusive bosses can create immense damage. Anirban Bhowmick, a practising psychological counsellor, said workplaces have a profound impact on employees. “A person is spending eight hours in the office. If the place is hostile, it will have a huge impact on the person. Often people undergo extreme stress, depression and some may start behaving with others in the same manner,” said Bhowmick.

Asked to elaborate on the causes of being abusive, he said primarily there are two reasons. “Either he/she has experienced that kind of behaviour since childhood and is repeating the same cycle. In this case, the person doesn’t know any other way to address a difficult situation other than being abusive or aggressive. Probably, he/she was subjected to the same type of behaviour and is repeating the same with others,” Bhowmick added.

The second reason is pressure from the management. “The person might not be abusive by nature, but is unable to handle pressure from his superior(s). So, he is reacting in the same way with his colleagues,” said Bhowmick.

Handling the situation

Toxic work culture and abusive superiors may also result in lack of recognition, favouritism, unhealthy communication, and gossip. Toxicity at the workplace also includes bad leadership, poor management skills, a loosened code of conduct, and a lack of communication. Sharmila Mukherjee, a practising psychiatrist, said the first step to address such a situation is by starting positive communication. “Talk over your concerns with your boss in a non-threatening and professional way. Some managers might not be aware of just how toxic they have become,” said Mukherjee. Simultaneously, collect proof of such behaviour and make complaints if things get worse. “Be logical in every step you take. Ask your boss the reason for such behaviour and desist from gossiping about your boss to other employees. Finally, try to put up a positive attitude,” Mukherjee added.

Last updated on 09.06.23, 05:35 PM

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