How to Fix a Toxic Culture

How to Fix a Toxic Culture


1. J.R. Graham, J. Grennan, C.R. Harvey, et al., “Corporate Culture: Evidence From the Field,” research paper 16-49, Columbia Business School, New York, July 2016, table 4. Findings from a survey of 1,348 North American CEOs and CFOs.

2. Graham et al., “Corporate Culture,” table 7.

3. D. Sull, C. Sull, W. Cipolli, et al., “Why Every Leader Needs to Worry About Toxic Culture,” MIT Sloan Management Review, March 16, 2022, The elements of a toxic culture (which we call the Toxic Five) are distinct but frequently co-occur in organizations. Jingxian Yao and her coauthors found strong evidence that the elements of toxic culture are part of a more general construct, which is sometimes referred to as “workplace mistreatment” or “employee victimization.” In their meta-analysis, the authors ran a confirmatory factor analysis and found that the elements of a toxic culture loaded significantly on a single factor, including incivility at 0.82, ostracism at 0.73, abusive supervision at 0.63, sexual harassment at 0.51, and undermining (which we call “cutthroat”) at 0.50. See J. Yao, S. Lim, C. Guo, et al., “Experienced Incivility in the Workplace: A Meta-Analytical Review of Its Construct Validity and Nomological Network,” Journal of Applied Psychology 107, no. 2 (February 2022): 193-220.

4. M. Robbins, M.T. Ford, and L.E. Tetrick, “Perceived Unfairness and Employee Health: A Meta-Analytic Integration,” Journal of Applied Psychology 97, no. 2 (March 2012): 235-272.

5. J. Goh, J. Pfeffer, and S.A. Zenios, “The Relationship Between Workplace Stressors and Mortality and Health Costs in the United States,” Management Science 62, no. 2 (February 2016): 608-628, table 3.

6. For a more detailed list of the corporate costs of toxic culture, along with references, see the figure “The Organizational Costs of Toxic Culture” in Sull et al., “Why Every Leader Needs to Worry About Toxic Culture.”

7. A comprehensive study found that 13% of U.S. employees encountered workplace aggression on a weekly basis. See A.C.H. Schat, M.R. Frone, and E.K. Kelloway, “Prevalence of Workplace Aggression in the U.S. Workforce: Findings From a National Study,” in “Handbook of Workplace Violence,” eds. E.K. Kelloway, J. Barling, and J.J. Hurrell (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, 2006), 47-89. In a Gallup poll, 6% of U.S. and Canadian employees reported that they had been disrespected in the previous 24-hour period. See “State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report,” PDF file (Washington, D.C.: Gallup, 2021),

8. A search for “culture change” in Amazon Books’ Business & Money section (English language only) on April 19, 2022, returned more than 10,000 results.

9. The research on the elements of a toxic culture is characterized by multiple, overlapping constructs. See M.S. Hershcovis, “‘Incivility, Social Undermining, Bullying … Oh My!’: A Call to Reconcile Constructs Within Workplace Aggression Research,” Journal of Organizational Behavior 32, no. 3 (April 2011): 499-519. To organize our literature review, we first mapped the Toxic Five to related constructs in psychology: disrespectful (incivility, identity threat), noninclusive (sexual or racial harassment, sexual or racial discrimination, ostracism), cutthroat (social undermining), and abusive (abusive supervision, emotional abuse, petty tyrant, mobbing, bullying, physical aggression, verbal aggression). The Toxic Five also includes unethical behavior, which is not typically included among the elements of workplace mistreatment or employee victimization. For comprehensive discussions of these elements, see M.A. McCord, D.L. Joseph, L.Y. Dhanani, et al., “A Meta-Analysis of Sex and Race Differences in Perceived Workplace Mistreatment,” Journal of Applied Psychology 103, no. 2 (February 2018): 137-163; K. Aquino and S. Thau, “Workplace Victimization: Aggression From the Target’s Perspective,” Annual Review of Psychology 60 (February 2009): 717-741; and Hershcovis, “‘Incivility, Social Undermining, Bullying … Oh My!’” 499-519.

10. The meta-analyses measured antecedents and outcomes of incivility/disrespectful behavior (three meta-analyses), sexual harassment and discrimination (two meta-analyses), and one meta-analysis for each of the following: racial harassment and discrimination, ostracism (exclusion unrelated to an employee’s sex or race), abusive manager, workplace aggression, general harassment (unrelated to an employee’s sex or race), mistreatment (including workplace harassment, mobbing, petty tyranny, bullying, emotional abuse, abusive supervision, social undermining, identity threat, and incivility), and unethical behavior. See McCord et al., “A Meta-Analysis of Sex and Race Differences,” 137-163; Yao et al., “Experienced Incivility in the Workplace,” 193-220; M. Howard, J. Cogswell, and M.B. Smith, “The Antecedents and Outcomes of Workplace Ostracism: A Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Applied Psychology 105, no. 6 (June 2020): 577-596; S. Han, C.M. Harold, I. Oh, et al., “A Meta-Analysis Integrating 20 Years of Workplace Incivility Research: Antecedents, Consequences, and Boundary Conditions,” Journal of Organizational Behavior 43, no. 3 (September 2021): 497-523; C.R. Willness, P. Steel, and K. Lee, “A Meta-Analysis of the Antecedents and Consequences of Workplace Sexual Harassment,” Personnel Psychology 60, no. 1 (spring 2007): 127-162; J.D. Mackey, R.E. Frieder, J.R. Brees, et al., “Abusive Supervision: A Meta-Analysis and Empirical Review,” Journal of Management 43, no. 6 (July 2017): 1940-1965; L.S. Park and L.R. Martinez, “An ‘I’ for an ‘I’: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Instigated and Reciprocal Incivility,” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 27, no. 1 (February 2022): 7-21; M.S. Hershcovis, N. Turner, J. Barling, et al., “Predicting Workplace Aggression: A Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Applied Psychology 92, no. 1 (January 2007): 228-238; N.A. Bowling and T.A. Beehr, “Workplace Harassment From the Victim’s Perspective: A Theoretical Model and Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Applied Psychology 91, no. 5 (September 2006): 998-1012; L.Y. Dhanani, A.M. Main, and A. Pueschel, “Do You Only Have Yourself to Blame? A Meta-Analytic Test of the Victim Precipitation Model,” Journal of Organizational Behavior 41, no. 8 (October 2020): 706-721; and J.J. Kish-Gephart, D.A. Harrison, and L.K. Treviño, “Bad Apples, Bad Cases, and Bad Barrels: Meta-Analytic Evidence About Sources of Unethical Decisions at Work,” Journal of Applied Psychology 95, no. 1 (January 2010): 1-31.

11. For each of the 11 meta-analyses, we took the estimated population correlation coefficient (sample size weighted mean correlation corrected for unreliability in both measures) between reported antecedents (e.g., employee age, unethical leadership, code of conduct enforced in the organization) and the element of toxic culture (e.g., incivility, abusive management). All reported correlation coefficients were bivariate. We aggregated the most commonly reported antecedents into five categories: (1) employee demographics, excluding race and gender; (2) employee personality traits (extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness to experience); (3) leadership traits and styles; (4) workplace climate and social norms; and (5) work design (e.g., role conflict, role ambiguity, overload). Several meta-analyses reported correlations for the same demographic attributes (e.g., age, tenure), Big Five personality traits, and elements of work design (e.g., role ambiguity, workload). There was much more variation in which elements of leadership (e.g., ethical leadership, leader member exchange, Machiavellianism) and social norms (e.g., norms of civility, ethical behavior). To estimate the relative magnitude of the population correlation coefficients for the five categories of antecedents across meta-analyses, we averaged the absolute value of the population correlation coefficients for each category by outcome pairing. This analysis provides a robust estimate of the relative relationship between the five categories of antecedents and the elements of toxic culture. In some cases, the antecedents were framed positively (e.g., ethical leadership) and in other cases, negatively (e.g., unethical leadership). In reporting out the bivariate relationships between antecedents and toxic culture, we expressed the average of the absolute value of all antecedents in negative terms. For example, all leadership measures (whether framed positively or negatively in the original meta-analysis) are expressed as a correlation between toxic leadership and toxic culture.

12. This follows Cristina Bicchieri’s definition of a descriptive norm: “a pattern of behavior such that individuals conform to it on the condition that they believe that most people in their reference group conform to it.” See C. Bicchieri, “Norms in the Wild: How to Diagnose, Measure, and Change Social Norms” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 19. In social psychology, the definition of “norms” is “behaviors of group members that act as implicit rules, considered to be both descriptive of what group members are and prescriptive of how they should be,” from S.T. Fiske, “Social Beings: A Core Motives Approach to Social Psychology” (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Wiley, 1984): 484. In the psychology literature, social norms are often referred to as “climate.” “Ethical climate,” for example, is defined as shared employee expectations that “arise when members believe that certain forms of ethical reasoning or behavior are expected standards or norms for decision-making within the firm,” from K.D. Martin and J.B. Cullen, “Continuities and Extensions of Ethical Climate Theory: A Meta-Analytic Review,” Journal of Business Ethics 69, no. 2 (December 2006): 177. The definition of a “climate of civility” is “policies and practices that communicate important information to organizational members with respect to expectations for how members should treat one another and the consequences for failing to do so,” from Han et al., “A Meta-Analysis Integrating 20 Years of Workplace Incivility Research,” 501.

13. Charles O’Reilly and Jenny Chatman explicitly define “corporate culture” in terms of shared social norms as well as values that are shared throughout the organization. See C.A. O’Reilly and J.A. Chatman, “Culture as Social Control: Corporations, Cults, and Commitment,” in “Research in Organizational Behavior: An Annual Series of Analytical Essays and Critical Reviews, Vol. 18,” eds. B.M. Staw and L.L. Cummings (Greenwich, Connecticut: JAI Press, 1996), 166.

14. S.K. Parker, F.P. Morgeson, and G. Johns, “One Hundred Years of Work Design Research: Looking Back and Looking Forward,” Journal of Applied Psychology 102, no. 3 (February 2017): 403-420.

15. McCord et al., “A Meta-Analysis of Sex and Race Differences,” table 5. McCord and her coauthors express all relationships as mean population Cohen’s d value (weighted by the inverse of the sampling error variance and corrected for attenuation) rather than population correlation coefficients. Converting the Cohen’s d reported in table 5 to correlation coefficients results in correlation of 0.23 between gender (female = 1) and sexual harassment/sexual discrimination and correlation of 0.01 between gender and other forms of mistreatment. The correlation between race (non-White = 1) and racial harassment/discrimination is 0.34, and between race and other forms of mistreatment 0.05.

16. One of the most rigorous experiments in long-lasting organizational change offered executives a menu of possible improvements and let them choose which interventions worked best in their specific contexts. See N. Bloom, B. Eifert, A. Mahajan, et al., “Does Management Matter? Evidence From India,” Quarterly Journal of Economics 128, no. 1 (February 2013): 1-51. That article describes a randomized control trial where leaders of Indian textile firms selected from a menu of 38 practices and implemented them in their mills. The average treatment firm adopted about 60% of the practices. The treatment plants experienced a 17% gain in productivity relative to carefully matched control firms. The treatment companies were still using about half of the practices they initially adopted nine years after the experiment, and they continued to outperform the control firms. See N. Bloom, A. Mahajan, D. McKenzie, et al., “Do Management Interventions Last? Evidence From India,” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 12, no. 2 (April 2020): 198-212.

17. E.H. Schein, “Organizational Culture and Leadership” (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1985), 2.

18. Graham et al., “Corporate Culture,” table 7. Fifty-five percent of respondents chose the current CEO as the most influential factor in setting culture when they could select up to four factors from a list of 12.

19. R. Huising and S.S. Silbey, “From Nudge to Culture and Back Again: Coalface Governance in the Regulated Organization,” Annual Review of Law and Social Science 14, no. 1 (October 2018): 91-114.

20. E. Benmelech and C. Frydman, “Military CEOs,” Journal of Financial Economics 117, no. 1 (July 2015): 43-59; and I.F. Koch-Bayram and G. Wernicke, “Drilled to Obey? Ex-Military CEOs and Financial Misconduct,” Strategic Management Journal 39, no. 11 (November 2018): 2943-2964.

21. M.B. Mawritz, D.M. Mayer, J.M. Hoobler, et al., “A Trickle-Down Model of Abusive Supervision,” Personnel Psychology 65, no. 2 (2012): 325-357.

22. X. Liu, “Corruption Culture and Corporate Misconduct,” Journal of Financial Economics 122, no. 2 (November 2016): 307-327. If a company’s CEO or CFO has been convicted of driving under the influence or other illegal behavior outside work, their company is 42% more likely to commit corporate fraud. See R. Davidson, A. Dey, and A. Smith, “Executives’ ‘Off-the-Job’ Behavior, Corporate Culture, and Financial Reporting Risk,” Journal of Financial Economics 117, no. 1 (July 2015): 5-28. See also M. Mironov, “Should One Hire a Corrupt CEO in a Corrupt Country?” Journal of Financial Economics 117, no. 1 (July 2015): 29-42.

23. In an earlier study of the strategic priorities of the S&P 500 companies, we identified 42 separate topics, including innovation, customer experience, sustainability, and revenue growth, that compete for space on the top team’s agenda. See D. Sull and S. Turconi, “How to Recognize a Strategic Priority When You See One,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Sept. 28, 2017,

24. K. Vaghul, A. Radeva, and K. Ira, “Workforce Diversity Data Disclosure,” Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance, March 9, 2022, A 2020 update of human capital disclosure requirements under S-K may create more pressure for disclosure among public companies listed in the U.S. See “Modernization of Regulation S-K Items 101, 103, and 105,” PDF file (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 2020),

25. “Institutional Investor Survey 2019,” PDF file (New York: Morrow Sodali, 2019), A survey of 46 global institutional investors managing a combined $33 trillion in assets revealed that 83% of investors requested more detail on human capital management when they asked for additional disclosure from companies. The impact of inviting external pressure by publicly posting progress is highest for large firms. Carly Knight and her coauthors find that discrimination lawsuits have no impact or even lead to small decreases in diversity among small firms, whereas discrimination lawsuits increase diversity in large organizations, primarily in their headquarters. They argue that highly visible firms will be most susceptible to institutional pressures to comply with legal and social norms. See C. Knight, F. Dobbin, and A. Kalev, “Under the Radar: Visibility and the Effects of Discrimination Lawsuits in Small and Large Firms,” American Sociological Review 87, no. 2 (April 2022): 175-201.

26. D. Sull, S. Turconi, and C. Sull, “When It Comes to Culture, Does Your Company Walk the Talk?” MIT Sloan Management Review, July 21, 2020,

27. In another study, we found that the fourth-strongest predictor of how employees will rate their employer’s corporate culture on Glassdoor is their assessment of whether leaders’ actions are consistent with the organization’s core values. See D. Sull and C. Sull, “10 Things Your Corporate Culture Needs to Get Right,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Sept. 16, 2021,

28. S.M. Ochs, “The Leadership Blind Spots at Wells Fargo,” Harvard Business Review, Oct. 6, 2016,

29. The survey comprised 16,129 employees from 469 organizations. The sample and survey design are described in D. Sull, R. Homkes, and C. Sull, “Why Strategy Execution Unravels — and What to Do About It,” Harvard Business Review 93, no. 3 (March 2015): 58-66.

30. D.W. Campbell and R. Shang, “Tone at the Bottom: Measuring Corporate Misconduct Risk From the Text of Employee Reviews,” Management Science, forthcoming; C.R. Forgues and D.S. Lee, “Using Big Data Analytics Tools to Predict Litigation Outcomes,” New Hampshire Bar News 30, no. 7 (Dec. 18, 2019): 1, 24-25; and D. Chhillar, D. Sull, M. Kraatz, et al., “Organizational Culture and Wrongdoing: A View Through the Glassdoor,” working paper, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois, 2022.

31. Z.T. Kowaleski, A.G. Sutherland, and F.W. Vetter, “Supervisor Influence on Employee Misconduct,” working paper, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana, July 2022.

32. In “Supervisor Influence on Employee Misconduct,” Kowaleski, Sutherland, and Vetter estimated supervisors’ discretion by measuring how far away from the firm’s headquarters their branch was located, under the assumption that more distant branches are more difficult for corporate leaders to monitor.

33. M. Egan, G. Matvos, and A. Seru, “The Market for Financial Adviser Misconduct,” Journal of Political Economy 127, no. 1 (February 2019): 233-295.

34. In table 6 of “The Market for Financial Adviser Misconduct,” Egan, Matvos, and Seru reported that financial advisory firms with at least 1,000 employees had the highest rates of broker misconduct as of May 2015.

35. T. Theeboom, B. Beersma, and A.E.M. van Vianen, “Does Coaching Work? A Meta-Analysis on the Effects of Coaching on Individual Level Outcomes in an Organizational Context,” The Journal of Positive Psychology 9, no. 1 (2014): 1-18, table 4; and R.J. Jones, S.A. Woods, and Y.R.F. Guillaume, “The Effectiveness of Workplace Coaching: A Meta-Analysis of Learning and Performance Outcomes From Coaching,” Journal of Organizational and Occupational Psychology 89, no. 2 (June 2016): 249-277, table 3. Coaching appears to work best for improving managers’ attitude toward their work, with population correlation measures between coaching interventions and affective outcomes 0.48-0.51, with moderately strong results for self-regulation in achieving work goals (0.32) and resilience and coping (0.26), and the weakest relationship with individual skills (0.18-0.28).

36. J. Greenberg, “Losing Sleep Over Organizational Injustice: Attenuating Insomniac Reactions to Underpayment Inequity With Supervisory Training in Interactional Justice,” Journal of Applied Psychology 91, no. 1 (January 2006): 58-69.

37. S.T. McClean, S.H. Courtright, J. Yim, et al., “Making Nice or Faking Nice? Exploring Supervisors’ Two-Faced Response to Their Past Abusive Behavior,” Personnel Psychology 74, no. 4 (winter 2021): 693-719.

38. See C. Mathieu and P. Babiak, “Corporate Psychopathy and Abusive Supervision: Their Influence on Employees’ Job Satisfaction and Turnover Intentions,” Personality and Individual Differences 91 (March 2016): 102-106; and E.H. O’Boyle Jr., D.R. Forsyth, G.C. Banks, et al., “A Meta-Analysis of the Dark Triad and Work Behavior: A Social Exchange Perspective,” Journal of Applied Psychology 97, no. 3 (May 2012): 557-579.

39. In S.A. De Brito, A.E. Forth, A.R. Baskin-Sommers, et al., “Psychopathy,” Nature Reviews Disease Primers 7 (2021): 1-21, the researchers report the prevalence of psychopathy among the general population as approximately 1%. In P. Babiak, C.S. Neumann, and R.D. Hare, “Corporate Psychopathy: Talking the Walk,” Behavioral Sciences and the Law 28, no. 2 (March-April 2010): 174-193, the researchers report that 3.9% of their sample of 203 managers met the clinical definition of psychopathy (versus 15% in the male prison population). Their estimate is, however, based on a small sample, and it is not clear how representative the managers were of the broader population. Overall, there is some weak evidence that the prevalence of psychopaths may be higher among business managers than the general population, but the magnitude of that difference is not clear. See S.F. Smith and S.O. Lilienfeld, “Psychopathy in the Workplace: The Knowns and the Unknowns,” Aggression and Violent Behavior 18, no. 2 (March-April 2013): 204-218.

40. M. Priesemuth and B. Bigelow, “It Hurts Me Too! (or Not?): Exploring the Negative Implications for Abusive Bosses,” Journal of Applied Psychology 105, no. 4 (April 2019): 410-421. Z. Liao, K.C. Yam, R.E. Johnson, et al., “Cleansing My Abuse: A Reparative Response Model of Perpetrating Abusive Supervisor Behavior,” Journal of Applied Psychology 103, no. 9 (September 2018): 1039-1056 also found that leaders engaged in positive behavior the same day they mistreated an employee, as a way to make amends for their earlier mistreatment.

41. D. Zohar and T. Polachek, “Discourse-Based Intervention for Modifying Supervisory Communication as Leverage for Safety Climate and Performance Improvement: A Randomized Field Study,” Journal of Applied Psychology 99, no. 1 (January 2014): 113-124.

42. A similar experiment with more frequent coaching sessions found a sixfold increase in how frequently supervisors emphasized safety in their interactions with subordinates, including verbal and nonverbal interactions, and a significant decrease in minor accidents. See D. Zohar, “Modifying Supervisory Practices to Improve Subunit Safety: A Leadership-Based Intervention Model,” Journal of Applied Psychology 87, no. 1 (February 2002): 156-163.

43. Z.T. Kowaleski, A.G. Sutherland, and F.W. Vetter, “Can Ethics Be Taught? Evidence From Securities Exams and Investment Adviser Misconduct,” Journal of Financial Economics 138, no. 1 (October 2020): 159-175.

44. The survey comprised 16,129 employees from 469 organizations. The sample and survey design are described in Sull, Homkes, and Sull, “Why Strategy Execution Unravels,” 58-66.

45. A. Benson, D. Li, and K. Shue, “Promotions and the Peter Principle,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 134, no. 4 (July 2019): 2085-2134.

46. R.I. Sutton, “The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t” (New York: Business Plus, 2010).

47. M. Egan, G. Matvos, and A. Seru, “When Harry Fired Sally: The Double Standard in Punishing Misconduct,” Journal of Political Economy 130, no. 5 (May 2022): 1184-1248.

48. “Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2020,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dec. 16, 2021,; and “Employer-Reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses, 2020,” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nov. 3, 2021,

49. M.S. Christian, J.C. Bradley, J.C. Wallace, et al., “Workplace Safety: A Meta-Analysis of the Roles of Person and Situation Factors,” Journal of Applied Psychology 94, no. 5 (October 2009): 1103-1127, table 5.

50. Egan, Matvos, and Seru, “The Market for Financial Adviser Misconduct,” 233-295. The authors estimate that less than 8% of brokers have committed any financial misconduct.

51. S.G. Dimmock, W.C. Gerken, and N.P. Graham, “Is Fraud Contagious? Coworker Influence on Misconduct by Financial Advisors,” The Journal of Finance 73, no. 3 (June 2018): 1417-1450.

52. C.M. Pearson, L.M. Andersson, and C.L. Porath, “Workplace Incivility,” in “Counterproductive Work Behavior: Investigations of Actors and Targets,” eds. S. Fox and P.E. Spector (Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2005), 177-200.

53. Bicchieri, “Norms in the Wild,” ch. 4.

54. K. Osatuke, S.C. Moore, C. Ward, et al., “Civility, Respect, Engagement in the Workforce (CREW): Nationwide Organization Development Intervention at Veterans Health Administration,” The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 45, no. 3 (September 2009): 384-410.

55. See F. Dobbin, D. Schrage, and A. Kalev, “Rage Against the Iron Cage: The Varied Effects of Bureaucratic Personnel Reforms on Diversity,” American Sociological Review 80, no. 5 (October 2015): 1014-1044; and L. Legault, J.N. Gutsell, and M. Inzlicht, “Ironic Effects of Antiprejudice Messages: How Motivational Interventions Can Reduce (but Also Increase) Prejudice,” Psychological Science 22, no. 12 (December 2011): 1472-1477.

56. The facilitators draw these exercises from a CREW toolkit that provides more than 40 facilitation exercises and tips. For some examples, see Osatuke et al., “Civility, Respect, Engagement in the Workforce (CREW),” appendix A.

57. “Civility, Respect, and Engagement in the Workforce (CREW),” National Center for Organization Development, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, last modified Jan. 8, 2022,

58. M.P. Leiter, H.K.S. Laschinger, A. Day, et al., “The Impact of Civility Interventions on Employee Social Behavior, Distress, and Attitudes,” Journal of Applied Psychology 96, no. 6 (November 2011): 1258-1274.

59. For a concise summary of CREW, including its benefits and when the approach works best, see the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2016 brochure on CREW civility.

60. C.H. Warner, G.N. Appenzeller, A. Mobbs, et al., “Effectiveness of Battlefield-Ethics Training During Combat Deployment: A Programme Assessment,” The Lancet 378, no. 9794 (Sept. 3, 2011): 915-924.

61. Warner et al., “Effectiveness of Battlefield-Ethics Training,” 918.

62. Warner et al., “Effectiveness of Battlefield-Ethics Training,” panel 1 provides a concise overview of the training program.

63. S.V. Kotsis and K.C. Chung, “Application of See One, Do One, Teach One Concept in Surgical Training,” Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 131, no. 5 (May 2013): 1194-1201.

64. Based on a study of all complaints made to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about sexual harassment between 2011 and 2016. See C. McCann, D. Tomaskovic-Devey, and M.V. Badgett, “Employer’s Responses to Sexual Harassment,” Center for Employment Equity, University of Massachusetts Amherst, accessed Aug. 31, 2022,

65. “Report Into Workplace Culture at Rio Tinto,” PDF file (Sydney: Elizabeth Broderick & Co., 2022),

66. Dobbin, Schrage, and Kalev, “Rage Against the Iron Cage,” 1014-1044.

67. For an overview, see J.J. Mazzola and R. Disselhorst, “Should We Be ‘Challenging’ Employees?: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of the Challenge-Hindrance Model of Stress,” Journal of Organizational Behavior 40, no. 3 (September 2019): 949-961; J. Goh, J. Pfeffer, and S.A. Zenios, “The Relationship Between Workplace Stressors and Mortality and Health Costs in the United States,” Management Science 62, no. 2 (February 2016): 608-628, table 3; D.C. Ganster and C.C. Rosen, “Work Stress and Employee Health: A Multidisciplinary Review,” Journal of Management 39, no. 5 (July 2013): 1085-1122; and E. Gonzalez-Mulé and B. Cockburn, “Worked to Death: The Relationships of Job Demands and Job Control With Mortality,” Personnel Psychology 70, no. 1 (spring 2017): 73-112.

68. A portion of the negative outcomes associated with a toxic culture are attributable to on-the-job stress. Even controlling for stress-inducing aspects of the job, however, toxic culture significantly increases the likelihood of employee burnout and physical illness, and the likelihood that an employee will leave the organization. See Bowling and Beehr, “Workplace Harassment From the Victim’s Perspective,” 1003.

69. See R.F. Baumeister, E. Bratslavsky, M. Muraven, et al., “Ego Depletion: Is the Active Self a Limited Resource?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 74, no. 5 (May 1998): 1252-1265; and H. Lian, D.J. Brown, D.L. Ferris, et al., “Abusive Supervision and Retaliation: A Self-Control Framework,” Academy of Management Journal 57, no. 1 (February 2014): 116-139.

70. Mawritz et al., “A Trickle-Down Model of Abusive Supervision,” 325-357.

71. S.E. Humphrey, J.D. Mahrgang, and F.P. Morgeson, “Integrating Motivational, Social, and Contextual Work Design Features: A Meta-Analytic Summary and Theoretical Extension of the Work Design Literature,” Journal of Applied Psychology 92, no. 5 (October 2007): 1332-1356; Parker, Morgeson, and Johns, “One Hundred Years of Work Design Research,” 403-420; E. Gonzalez-Mulé, M. Kim, and J.W. Ryu, “A Meta-Analytic Test of Multiplicative and Additive Models of Job Demands, Resources, and Stress,” Journal of Applied Psychology 106, no. 9 (September 2021): 1391-1411; G.M. Alarcon, “A Meta-Analysis of Burnout With Job Demands, Resources, and Attitudes,” Journal of Vocational Behavior 79, no. 2 (October 2011): 549-562; and E.R. Crawford, J.A. LePine, and B.L. Rich, “Linking Job Demands and Resources to Employee Engagement and Burnout: A Theoretical Extension and Meta-Analytic Test,” Journal of Applied Psychology 95, no. 5 (September 2010): 834-848. We use “employee stress” in this article as it is used colloquially to describe an individual’s level of anxiety related to work. The colloquial use of “stress” corresponds to the psychological construct of “strain,” which is how individuals respond to stressors. Employee stress (or strain) has been operationalized and measured as anxiety, burnout, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, and physical symptoms that vary in the severity of the response. Work design has been conceptualized in many different ways. In prioritizing which elements of work design had the strongest relationship to stress, we focused on elements of work design that were common enough to be included in meta-analyses.

72. Crawford, LePine, and Rich, “Linking Job Demands and Resources,” 834-848; and Mazzola and Disselhorst, “Should We Be ‘Challenging’ Employees?” 949-961.

73. Crawford, LePine, and Rich, “Linking Job Demands and Resources,” 834-848. Psychologists use the term “hindrance” to describe work that employees view as a nuisance.

74. T.A. Beehr and S. Glazer, “Organizational Role Stress,” in “Handbook of Work Stress,” eds. J. Barling, E.K. Kelloway, and M.R. Frone (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, 2005), 7-33. In our review of meta-analyses (summarized in endnote 10), role conflict has an average correlation coefficient of 0.37 with elements of toxic culture, followed by workload (0.26), autonomy (-0.25), and role ambiguity (0.24). Role ambiguity and role conflict are typically classified as hindrances that increase stress and decrease motivation. See Crawford, LePine, and Rich, “Linking Job Demands and Resources,” 834-848.

75. M. Priesemuth, M. Schminke, B. Bigelow, et al., “A Light at the End of the Tunnel: How the Right Workplace Structure Can Help Disrupt the Negative Impact of Abusive Supervision,” Human Performance 35, no. 2 (2022): 71-93.

76. K.J. Ritter, R.A. Matthews, M.T. Ford, et al., “Understanding Role Stressors and Job Satisfaction Over Time Using Adaptation Theory,” Journal of Applied Psychology 101, no. 12 (December 2016): 1655-1669.

77. Humphrey, Mahrgang, and Morgeson, “Integrating Motivational, Social, and Contextual Work Design Features,” table 2.

78. Humphrey, Mahrgang, and Morgeson, “Integrating Motivational, Social, and Contextual Work Design Features,” table 4. It’s interesting to note in table 4 that empowering employees to make their own decisions and decide how to do their work was much more strongly correlated with job satisfaction (and potentially stress) than giving them control over scheduling their work.

79. Gonzalez-Mulé, Kim, and Ryu, “A Meta-Analytic Test,” 1391-1411.

80. L.K. Lunde, L. Fløvik, J.O. Christensen, et al., “The Relationship Between Telework From Home and Employee Health: A Systematic Review,” BMC Public Health 22, no. 1 (January 2022): 1-14. After applying an exhaustive search, the authors could identify only nine articles studying the link between remote work and either stress or burnout/exhaustion; only four of these studies were judged to be of high quality. All of the studies were conducted before the pandemic and the more general shift to working from home. Thus, collectively, the results were inconclusive.

81. Humphrey, Mahrgang, and Morgeson, “Integrating Motivational, Social, and Contextual Work Design Features,” table 5.

82. For evidence on the relationship between workplace social support and job-related stress, see Gonzalez-Mulé, Kim, and Ryu, “A Meta-Analytic Test,” 1391-1411; and Humphrey, Mahrgang, and Morgeson, “Integrating Motivational, Social, and Contextual Work Design Features,” 1332-1356.

83. C.M. Barnes and N.F. Watson, “Why Healthy Sleep Is Good for Business,” Sleep Medicine Review 47 (October 2019): 112-118; and B. Litwiller, L.A. Snyder, W.D. Taylor, et al., “The Relationship Between Sleep and Work: A Meta-Analysis,” Journal of Applied Psychology 102, no. 4 (April 2017): 682-699.

84. C.M. Barnes, J. Schaubroeck, M. Huth, et al., “Lack of Sleep and Unethical Conduct,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 115, no. 2 (July 2011): 169-180; D.T. Welsh, K.M. Mai, A.P.J. Ellis, et al., “Overcoming the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Unethical Behavior: An Extension of Integrated Self-Control Theory,” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 76 (May 2018): 142-154; and C.M. Barnes, L. Lucianetti, D.P. Bhave, et al., “‘You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Sleepy’: Leaders’ Sleep, Daily Abusive Supervision, and Work Unit Engagement,” Academy of Management Journal 58, no. 5 (October 2015): 1419-1437.

85. C.M. Barnes, J.A. Miller, S. Bostock, “Helping Employees Sleep Well: Effects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia on Work Outcomes,” Journal of Applied Psychology 102, no. 1 (January 2017): 104-113; and H.G. Bloom, I. Ahmed, C.A. Alessi, et al., “Evidence-Based Recommendations for the Assessment and Management of Sleep Disorders in Older Persons,” Journal of the American Geriatric Society 57, no. 5 (May 2009): 761-789.

86. Albert Hirschman focuses on exit and voice as alternatives, but employees can use them concurrently as when employees write negative reviews on Glassdoor or in employee engagement surveys, and also partially exit by disengaging from their job by devoting less time or effort to it. See A.O. Hirschman, “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States” (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1970).

87. K.C. Kellogg, “Hot Lights and Cold Steel: Cultural and Political Toolkits for Practice Change in Surgery,” Organization Science 22, no. 2 (March-April 2011): 482-502.


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Jorge Oliveira