We’ve all heard horror stories about toxic workplaces, and we know they’re (unsurprisingly) a prime driver of employee turnover. In a research paper published last year in MIT Sloan Management Review, researchers found that a toxic corporate culture is 10.4 times as powerful as compensation in predicting attrition. Then there are the legal risks and public-relations disasters.

But what does “toxic” actually mean? Is it coworkers who don't get along? Is it a bad boss? Is it an unforgiving work schedule? Without a clear definition of what toxicity is—and, just as importantly, what it isn’t—the task of knowing how and when to address it is somewhere between difficult and impossible. We’ll cover in future newsletters how to root out toxic behavior in the workplace, but for today, we’re going to start with step one: identifying it. Here’s how.

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