“TOXIC” workplaces: The negative interface between the physical and social environments

Linda Too, Michael Harvey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Toxic real estate has been used as a negative phrase to describe non-performing assets on a firm's balance sheet. Today there is another form of “TOXIC” real estate that needs management's attention, i.e. physical workplaces that are harmful to employees on a day-in and day-out basis. Particularly when productivity of workforce is now central to business competitiveness, it is timely to explore the interface between physical and social environments as many of the social/psychological impacts on employees have not been recognized or calibrated. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the links between physical workplace and social behaviour. In this conceptual paper, current literature relating to corporate real estate and environmental psychology are reviewed to investigate the links between physical workplace and social behaviour. The findings are synthesised to present a framework for understanding the cause of toxicity in the workplace and a self-auditing preventive strategy. This article argued that there is a link between physical workplace and the social behaviour of employees. Arising from toxic workplaces, two dysfunctional social behaviours are highlighted, i.e. bullying and destructive leadership. The paper then presents a logical plan to monitor and remediate these “TOXIC” conditions in the physical environment. This paper is original in its angle to which social behaviour is juxtaposed against physical environment. In particular, by examining the negative interface, it informs managers of the risks to avoid and therefore identifies the baseline for which the physical workplace must be managed. It also makes a practical contribution by its development of a self-auditing framework to avoid toxic workplaces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-181
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Corporate Real Estate
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2012


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