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Promoting Healthy Work Ethics and Building Non-toxic Work Environments

Author: Abiola Isawumi, PhD., West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens, University of Ghana

Introduction: Promoting Healthy Work Ethics and Culture

Healthy work environment breeds success and increases employees’ commitments to the overall vision of the institution or organization. People become healthier when the environment is peaceful and generously accommodating – overall peace of mind is as important as peaceful working environments. Workplace environment affects the quality of life – it either makes living meaningful or unfulfilling.

For the best, employees put their best foot forward in a friendly environment with less tension; they feel safe and warmly secured for peak-performance and superior thinking. Sometimes in the career journey, people by design or choice might work in environments that are devoid of peace, respect, loyalty and largely unfriendly. Professional engagements in hostile work environments affects mental health and can shorten life expectancy1. It has been established that people will spend more time at work or working2,3, hence there is a need to promote healthy work ethics and culture across discipline and organizations. 

Workplace and Well-being

Organization support theory indicated that a toxic workplace environment impacts employee behaviours and well-being negatively4 – as health is wealth, well-being remains the greatest wealth. When its essence is lost, productivity is crippled and the logarithmic progression curve of the organization becomes flattened. In hostile work environments, there is lack of trust, efforts are sabotaged, resources are lost and right value systems become compromised.

A good consistent chase of morality and a practice of dignity might restore the lost value; however, it is hard to quench the slow destroying fire of hostility generated by negative energy. It spreads faster to co-workers and ultimately contaminates genuine commitment to the prosperity of the organization. When workers suffer from collegial harassment or subordinates bullied by the supposed boss, the work environment becomes unsafe, unnecessary depression sets in and frustration is heightened.  

The Impulse of ‘Emerging Organizational Duties’

It is normal to accept responsibilities off-the-zone of regimented job descriptions, however it’s sometimes not ideal if threatened to do so. Although, expertise, professionalism, competence, capacity, understanding and character makes you an integral part of an organization; however, there is a need for caution when you’re being enslaved to perform what they tagged ‘emerging organizational duty’.

Here, you’re disrespectfully coerced consistently without prior notice to do what was not on your ‘terms of contract’ – such a situation might create discord leading to imperviousness in the workplace5. Sometimes, the employee is at a position of no choice, as some employers tie this to their monthly financial reward (salary/stipend/wages/allowance). While this is a breach of contract and demeaning, you might be left with no option but to accept this burden. Though unwillingly, you don’t want to lose your job. In reality, obedience without willingness is slavery and the more you try to please, the more hostile the environment becomes – you ultimately have to decide on staying or moving on. 

Worth Profiles and Workplace

People do well when they’re respected for who they are and for their worth. A healthy work environment reminds you of your worth, and does not convince you that you’re a ‘common daisy’ and not a ‘special rose’. Your worth must ‘score a century’ in a healthy work environment. While achieving the overall objectives of your research group or organization, your worth is primarily in the lead. Your worth or value must increase over time and must be appreciated progressively. 

When your worth is consistently appreciated, it validates your relevance to the group and creates a more conducive atmosphere to give your best. Worth is the main critical value of exchange. It helps the efficient delivery of service at its best and can also kill right initiatives when it’s taken for granted. Indirectly or sometimes unintentionally, group leaders or the boss gets lost in the ‘momentary euphoria’ of success, thereby forgetting the values of people that made it happen. Employers and others in the working environment should be careful; for “When a cow drops its dung, then the people shall know its worth” (African Proverb).

Creating a Healthy Workplace Environment

Respect is Pivotal – Respect is key to progress and facilitates a secure working environment. It’s best when it’s mutual; then, it’s impossible to overdo it. People do well when they are respected for their contributions to the progress of the organization. “Respect flows two ways and can mean as much to the giver as to the one receiving”6. No respect is little, the motive is the essence; “mutual respect out-distances aspersion”7.

Sense of Belonging – Every employee irrespective of status or hierarchy is indispensable and important to the success of the organization. Valuing workers and appreciating their commitments give them a sense of belonging and create a conducive environment to give their best. Acknowledgement motivates and creates respect among the workers; it further strengthens commitment that can advance united fronts to achieve corporate objectives.

Differences and Feeling of Indifference – Personal differences are inevitable and can generate rifts if not properly handled. Maturity is essential, especially when an indecent individual’s interests compete with the core values of the organization. Indifference that can hamper the progress of the organization and well-being of the workers should be discouraged.

Team Work, No Ostracism – Unhealthy competition among the workers creates unnecessary tension; team work that leverages diverse workers expertise should be prioritized, this will allow mutual understanding and create hostile-free workplace environments.

Benefit of the Doubts – Prejudice of any kind should be avoided; workers should have opportunity to be expressive without being afraid. Blame-game breeds crisis, problems should be solved without attacking personality and mistakes should be forgiven where necessary. Consultation is far better than confrontation and a soft word turns away anger8.

Unnecessary Sensitivity – As a worker, decide not to know everything. Mind your business and the business you are employed to do. Be careful of office politics, cheap gossip foments strife and don’t say things you will later regret. Quietness is wiser when you’re angry and learn to ignore conversations that will rather destroy than edify. Self-restraint is a necessary tool to avoid troubles and don’t support ‘Peter’ unjustly because you hated ‘Paul’. Manage your expectations with people, so you won’t be easily disappointed and lose your temper.

Character and Competence – Lead competence with character, for what you lack in competence you can make up for with character. Don’t allow pride, insecurities, racial differences, religious and personal beliefs affect your professional relationship with others. 


  1. Bangwal, D., Tiwari, P. and Chamola, P. (2017). Green HRM, work-life and environment performance; International Journal of Environment Workplace and Employment, 4(3), 245-268.
  2. Stoewen D. L. (2016). Wellness at work: Building healthy workplaces. The Canadian veterinary journal, 57(11), 1188–1190.
  3. Gina Belli (2018). Here’s how many years you will spend at work, Payscale Career Advice;
  4. Rasool, S.F.; Wang, M.; Tang, M.; Saeed, A.; Iqbal, J. (2021). How Toxic Workplace Environment Effects the Employee Engagement: The Mediating Role of Organizational Support and Employee Wellbeing. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health18:2294.
  5. Wang Z, Zaman S, Rasool SF, Zaman Q, Amin A (2020). Exploring the Relationships Between a Toxic Workplace Environment, Workplace Stress, and Project Success with the Moderating Effect of Organizational Support: Empirical Evidence from Pakistan. Risk Manag Healthc Policy; 13:1055-1067
  6. Durham, D.A. (2007). Acacia: The War with the Mein, Anchor Books, 293
  7. Lorin Morgan-Richards; Goodread quotes
  8. Bible Hub; Proverbs 15:1 –

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