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How to Prevent Workplace Toxicity?

ET Cases, 8 Pages
AUTHOR(S) : Vandana Jayakumar and Dr. Nagendra V. Chowdary

Case Preview

How to Prevent Workplace Toxicity?

Sangeeta Rao (Sangeeta), an experienced sales professional from the cosmetics industry, had recently joined Herbal Cosmetics Pvt. Ltd. (Herbal Cosmetics), a herbal cosmetics manufacturing company, as Corporate Sales Manager at its Mumbai office. A native of Bengaluru, Sangeeta had relocated to Mumbai about 3 months back
following her marriage. This was her first job in Mumbai. She had 7 years of experience in corporate sales (B2B) with two different cosmetic companies in Bengaluru. These 7 years had been extremely fulfilling as she had been the sales superstar in both the companies.

Herbal Cosmetics was a 4 year old startup which had spawned from Saffron Oils & Co. (Saffron), an established business house in the edible cooking oil industry. Yogesh Rawal (Yogesh), a longstanding employee from Saffron was the CEO of Herbal Cosmetics and Ranjini Rajan (Ranjini), also from the parent company, was the Sales

Two months into her new job at Herbal Cosmetics, Sangeeta was trying to get back to her high-performance standards as earlier. The last 8 Fridays’ meetings had not been quite reassuring. Unlike her previous two companies’ weekly sales review meetings, these weekly review meetings at Herbal Cosmetics were quite disdainful, Sangeeta thought. She was getting prepared for her 9th Friday’s team meeting. These weekly sales review meetings were meant to take stock of the sales targets and course corrections if any.

9th Friday Sales Review Meeting

With a very positive sales outlook for the next quarter and with a deep sense of composure, Sangeeta was ready for 9th Friday’s sales review meeting. “Hope not one of those 8 meetings”, Sangeeta fervently wished. Not a person to be easily intimidated, Sangeeta knew she would be a star performer at Herbal Cosmetics with little more time and genuine support. Her hope was short-lived though.

During the meeting, Ranjini, her reporting manager, insulted her, making personal remarks, in front of the other colleagues. Sangeeta had failed to clinch a coveted corporate sales deal which had left Ranjini fuming. “You might be newly-wed for your family but you are no longer a new employee here. Two months is good enough time to understand a market. You were hired at a hefty package for your experience. Is this your experience? Herbal Cosmetics has lost a big business opportunity. I don’t want such mishaps again else you better find your way out as there is no place for idiots on my team,” Ranjini shouted...........

Discussion Questions

I. What is workplace toxicity? Why is it important for companies and employees to be sensitized on the effects of workplace toxicity?

II. What are all the various forms of workplace toxicity? From the given sequence of events and conversations at Herbal Cosmetics, identify all the signals of workplace toxicity.

III. ................


Exhibit I: Leaders Fired for Toxicity

Exhibit II: Likely Impact of Toxicity at the Workplace

Teaching Note Preview

How to Prevent Workplace Toxicity?


The purpose of this Teaching Plan is neither to outline the answers to Case Debate’s discussion questions nor to suggest an ideal way of conducting an effective debate basis the given topic. It is more to share the authors’ perspectives, basis their classroom orchestration of this Case Debate, on possible ways of orchestrating this Case Debate.

Purpose of Case Debate

Purpose of this Case Debate, which is a prelude to the Case Method of Teaching, is to inculcate the following skills [Exhibit (TP)-I] that would amply benefit the participants during their careers.

As this Case Debate is based on a very generic topic, the purpose is not to dwell into only the research-based inputs but more to prepare the students/participants for the process of case discussion – except that while the case discussion would be based on the case facts, the Case Debate encourages the students/participants to present their ideas with no rigorous business dilemma................



Exhibit (TP)-II: Signs of Workplace Toxicity

Exhibit (TP)-III: Classroom Orchestration Plan – How to Prevent Workplace Toxicity?


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Product code: OB-9-0072, OB-9-0072A


What makes a workplace a toxic workplace? What are the signs of a toxic workplace? How does toxicity manifest in a workplace? While it's a hard thing to admit workplace toxicity, it can lead to cantankerous work culture too quickly. In an article titled, "How a toxic workplace could, literally, destroy your health", author Jan Bruce (Jan) writes that, "I don't have first-hand knowledge of Amazon, but as CEO of a growing digital health business I do'know first-hand that our nation's most elite, innovative companies can be both engaging and grueling places to work."1 Jan was writing with reference to Amazon's alleged toxic work culture where Jeff Bezos is the chief decider of his company's culture. Quite often, people complain of toxicity in the workplace and how it impacts them personally and professionally. While there could be just a few perpetrators of toxicity in an organization, it has far reaching impact on organizational and employee wellbeing. This Case Debate aims to sensitize the participants to the need and importance of noticing the subtle signs of workplace toxicity and permits a debate on the possible ways to prevent the same.

This Case Debate centers around (a) What is workplace toxicity? (b) What are the signals of workplace toxicity and how does it manifest itself? (c) How does workplace toxicity affect an organization? (d) Can workplace toxicity be stopped? (e) How can organizations create toxic-free cultures?

Purpose of this Case Debate, which is a prelude to the Case Method of Teaching, is to inculcate the following skills that would amply benefit the participants during their careers:

(a) Ideation
(b) Discussion and Debate
(c) Empathy
(d) Appreciation

Case Debate Positioning and Setting

Depending on the purpose, this Case Debate can be used for either of the following:

  • MBA Programs – Organizational Behavior Course – Organizational Culture Module - To debate on how toxicity in the workplace affects organizational culture
  • Undergraduate Programs/BBA Programs – To analyze the importance of a healthy work environment for employee and organizational wellbeing

1Jan Bruce, "How a toxic workplace could, literally, destroy your health",, August 25th 2015 (Accessed Date: July 20th 2018)

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- Case Debate
- Teaching Plan (**ONLY for Academicians)

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