“We didn’t set out to do a research study on toxic culture, specifically the focus was more on: What are the drivers of attrition? What are the topics that employees speak about in their Glassdoor reviews, that are going to be more or less powerful drivers of this outcome?” says Charles Sull, cofounder of CultureX in Cambridge, Mass.

After analyzing 180 topics on the company-review website, “the topic that rose right to the surface, which was the most powerful driver that we found by far, was a toxic culture,” says Sull.

“If employees are saying the culture is toxic, whenever that happens, it is going to have a really big impact on attrition and our research indicates that effect size is roughly a little bit over 10 times the effect size that compensation has on attrition.”

Elements of a toxic culture

So, what exactly is toxic culture? It’s largely around disrespectful behaviour, he says.

“Previous research has found that respect is actually the number one most powerful driver of an overall Glassdoor rating and it turns out when employees feel disrespected, that’s a real telltale sign that the culture is toxic.”