How to create a toxic culture alarm

How to create a toxic culture alarm
The Media Leader Jobs

Three-quarters of UK employees reported experiencing a toxic workplace, but how can you spot them and change them?

Runway magazine isn’t the only toxic workplace in media.

While the fictional(ish) magazine in the Devil Wears Prada does show extremes, for some people working all across the wider media and advertising industry, unfortunately the truth isn’t too far off.

More commonly though, toxic workplace environments are more insidious and this includes misleading hybrid policies, poor communication, high-employee turnover, lack of trust, lack of inclusivity, lack of transparency and inaccessible tech.

According to a 2023 report released by employee engagement platform Oak Engage, out of 2,000 UK employees surveyed, 75% admit they have experienced a toxic workplace culture and 87% of employees said a toxic workplace has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Toxic workplace tips

So what can you do if you’re in a toxic workplace? You need a “toxic culture alarm”.

Ludmila N. Praslova, the professor of psychology at Vanguard University of Southern California who coined the phrase, uses the example of canary birds, which were used in UK mines to detect carbon monoxide between the years 1911 and 1986.

Praslova herself is autistic and champions the powers of hypersensitive pattern-thinkers in the workplace, citing how autistic people experience the world more intensely than the average person.

Like canaries in a coal mine, autistic people are often first to be affected by subtle changes in culture. The benefits that this extraordinary attention, memory, pattern detection, empathy and overall work performance can bring is increasingly obvious to progressive organisations.

“People always tell me I am too sensitive. They want me to stop caring, feeling, paying attention to the complex impacts of decisions. But I can’t help it. It’s my natural state to see multiple connections, fast,” Prasolva explains.

“One decision impacts organisations in so many ways — performance, revenue, employee engagement, client satisfaction. Seeing hidden connections helped me time product release and hire outstanding performers others rejected. But I see patterns of danger even better than opportunities.”

So while positivity is important in workplace culture, so too is problem identification, and the latter is often a focus of emotionally intelligent and neurodivergent employees.

Authenticity is in

Sensitivity hasn’t always been welcome in the workplace, but the autocratic company management styles of old are disappearing, while encouraging and supporting employees to bring their authentic selves to work is firmly in.

Some larger organisations even have specialised autism programmes to hire neurodiverse candidates who may not thrive in traditional interview processes, but this isn’t commonplace yet.

Sadly, many workplaces remain toxic and still aren’t equity and inclusion-progressive, so if this sounds like your organisation, it could be time to look for something new.

While few job specs explicitly encourage applicants who identify as neuroexpansive or neurodiverse upfront, it is worth doing a little research into any company’s DE&I before applying, and ideally speak to someone who works there about what the workplace culture is really like.

Ask about flexibility in scheduling and work from home policies, if workloads and deadlines allow for breaks, and if neurodiverse colleagues feel a need to mask in the workplace.

Who’s hiring this week?

Ready to find a role in a more inclusive organisation? Visit The Media Leader Job Board for new opportunities, updated daily, like these three.

Dentsu Aegis Network, London

Global marketing and advertising agency Denstu is hiring a Data Lead into its EMEA New Business Team. The successful candidate will use their deep expertise in audience management to deliver compelling, robust narratives that showcase the best of the agency’s expertise and capabilities to clients in written and visual forms. Leading on data and tech pitch deliverables, this data will be incorporated into pitches for new business projects. This could be your opportunity to produce career-defining work. Denstu International has an Inclusion and Diversity policy and the job spec highlights a focus on nurturing talent, team building and fostering inclusivity. Read more here.

News UK, London

News UK is seeing an Account Director for The Fifth, its award-winning global social creative agency specialising in creator marketing and talent management. You will support the account management and creation of integrated campaigns, and will be responsible for day-to-day account management and campaign execution, including deadlines, budget management, setting KPIs including forecasting organic social growth, detailed reporting and compelling post campaign analysis, and deliverables, with internal team members, external partners, and clients. Interested? Apply now.

PA Media, London

Be part of PA Media’s press gallery team as a Parliamentary Reporter and you’ll be filing fast, accurate and fair copy from the House of Commons and when necessary, the House of Lords. The successful candidate will be able to spot key news lines and will file news alerts reactively, generating their own stories from a range of stories, and developing their own contacts book in the process. If you’ve an interest in and knowledge of national politics and the confidence to file offbeat stories and break political news, this could be for you. The jobs spec has a whole section on inclusion, including notes on work-life balance, flexible working needs and supporting candidates during applications. Find out more here.

Still seeking the perfect fit? Visit and bookmark The Media Leader Job Board to see more available roles

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