How toxic and abusive relationships affect workplace productivity

Titi sighed for the umpteenth time. She stared at the piles of files waiting to be sorted, and her mind drifted to the not a conversation she had with her husband in the morning, spiced up with physical and verbal abuses from him. She’d tried to conceal her bruises with makeup and long sleeves, but she couldn’t hide her emotional bruises. Thus, it inadvertently affected her productivity at work, to such an extent that her boss already issued a second ‘strike’ for her in less than two weeks. She sighed again, fighting back the tears that were welling up in her eyes. If only…

Frank is in a dilemma. He’d already spent half of his working day sleeping and thinking. Cynthia, his fiancée, has been pressuring him to behave like a man. A man, according to her, provides whatever is asked of him, anytime, without batting an eyelid. The issue with her concept of “a man” is that she has been asking way too much of him these days. His salary runs out as soon as the month begins, and he is forced to take on two additional jobs in order to act like a man and provide for Cynthia as soon as she asks. He double-checked the board displaying all employees’ stats and was not shocked to see that he ranked lower than the previous week. If only…

The narratives on Titi and Frank are but a few of several millions of lived experiences of people whose productivity at work is affected by unhealthy relationships. Happiness is one of the secrets to increased workplace productivity, and healthy social relationships, among other things, guarantee happiness. Indeed, workers are more related to productivity by the relational nexus, than the cash nexus. This is because healthy and supportive relationships with significant others bring about inner joy and peace of mind, which is reflected in how work is done. Research has established motivation as an intrinsic determinant of productivity. How then, can people be motivated or productive when they are stressed and strained by unhealthy social relationships in which they are enmeshed?

Toxic and abusive relationships, on the other hand, can result in low self-esteem, helplessness, fear, paranoia, insecurity, and depression, demoralization, and despair in employees. It is detrimental to one’s mental health and emotionally draining. When a person is emotionally exhausted, he or she may become physically and mentally absent, resulting in low workplace productivity. Toxic relationships not only exhaust people; they also isolate the victim in their headspace. At that point, the victim’s priority is figuring out what went wrong and how to solve the problem, which likely causes such a person to be non-interactive and non-productive at work.

According to the Canadian Labor Congress, one in three workers has had their work performance affected, due to experiencing domestic violence – an extreme form of a toxic relationship. The big question for everyone – managers, directors, employers, and employees, therefore, is “What can be done to address this problem, for a happy and fulfilled life, and enhanced productivity at work?”

To begin with, employers must acknowledge that unhealthy relationships are also a workplace problem. This is because while some victims of toxic and abusive relationships may view the workplace as a lifeline where they can feel safe, others may become so affected that their productivity at work suffers as a result. Either way, employers must recognize that they have a significant role to play in assisting employees who are in unhealthy relationships and in joining the campaign to end domestic violence in society.

A major way employers can address this issue is to have a good domestic abuse policy in place. The policy should create awareness and explain the signs of domestic abuse; clarify how the employer can offer assistance, and ensure all-around safety in and around the workplace. Select staff should also be trained to become domestic abuse champions, with clear approaches and protocols for perpetrators. Additionally, this policy should be communicated to employees so that they are aware that the organization is employee-centered and committed to supporting its employees.

Workers should be sensitized to recognize signs of toxic and abusive relationships, and trained to provide all possible support to a coworker(s) who are affected. They can accomplish this by providing victims with emotional support and directing them to the nearest support network.

Not everyone can handle a toxic and abusive relationship without being emotionally, physically, and mentally harmed. A person in a toxic and abusive relationship, on the other hand, can take some basic steps to get out of the situation.

The first step is to speak out. Someone cannot receive help unless he or she recognizes the need. Allow a trusted family member, friend, or coworker to help you through the process. It may also be necessary to seek professional assistance as soon as possible, by contacting therapists, counsellors, or support groups who have the necessary experience.

It is important to also build a safety net. Building a safety net means ending all types of toxic interactions and engaging in activities that are beneficial to your mental health. Make time for hobbies, a side project or a company, and even learning new skills. The idea is to reintroduce that joyful energy into your life, career, and anywhere you find yourself.

A toxic and abusive relationship is not only a menace to a mentally healthy society, but it also correlates with less productivity at work. It has made many diligent Titis slack at work to warrant some level of strikes, and it has brought down the ranks of several Franks at their workplaces. Its recent prevalence is cause for concern, and everyone, affected or not, should be wary of.

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