Commentary: Why Toxic Workplaces Can Mean Bullying of Coworkers

HONG KONG: The pandemic has shone a spotlight on mental health like never before. In many developed economies, COVID-19 has precipitated great resignation and caused major shifts in work culture – hybrid work models, mental health days and corporate transparency are strategies used to retain employees. talent in a tight labor market.

Toxic workplaces – generally negative work environments of dysfunction, conflict and intimidation that lead to disengagement, stress and even trauma – exist around the world. CEO Vishal Garg, known for firing 900 workers in a Zoom call, allegedly insulted employees, even accusing them of “stealing” the company by being unproductive.

They have attracted attention in Singapore. Employees, it seems, are no longer shy about speaking out against toxic workplaces.

A DAC report out of 10 individual experiences, a boss sent derogatory text messages using the phrases “human trash”, “you deserve to die” and “your mother should have had an abortion”.

In 2021, it was reported that a former WWF Singapore employee has been diagnosed suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after allegations of bullying by his ex-boss. She said CNA that her former boss constantly criticized her performance and manipulated her into thinking it was all her fault, to the point that she dreaded going to the office every day.

Bullying often starts at the top. The power struggle between superiors and subordinates is often seen as the reason toxicity goes unreported, with third parties cited as being too afraid to come forward at the risk of losing their jobs.

But in a toxic workplace, things may not be as clear cut as it suggests.


Colleagues are not always silent, fearful observers. Far from feeling sorry for their co-workers, some may feel a sense of schadenfreude, or “bad pleasure,” and even join in the bullying.

We recently investigated how abusive behavior by supervisors can influence interactions between victims and their co-workers.

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