Financial Expert Reveals What 'Toxic Workplace Phrases' Really Mean

A financial expert has gone viral for sharing "toxic workplace phrases" and decoding their true meaning.

"I definitely have heard these phrases used in my own work life," Ashley Feinstein Gerstley told Newsweek. "I started my career in the finance industry (as an investment banker) where these phrases are very common."

A January report from MIT Sloan Management Review showed that toxic corporate culture is driving the Great Resignation. Toxic culture is by far the strongest predictor of employee turnover and over 10 times more important than compensation, the analysis of 34 million employees found.

Office
A financial expert has gone viral for sharing “toxic workplace phrases” and decoding their true meaning. Above, people work at a WeWork in London, England, in April 2021. TOLGA AKMEN / Contributor/AFP

The leading contributors to toxic culture were identified as companies' failure to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, workers feeling disrespected and unethical behavior.

Personal finance expert Ashley Feinstein Gerstley shares workplace advice on a TikTok page for The Fiscal Femme, the company she founded to support women's financial well-being.

In a video posted May 2 with 1.5 million views, Gerstley revealed four "toxic workplace phrases" and "what they really mean."

4 Common Toxic Workplace Phrases

A "fast-paced environment" was code for "no time off," she said.

An employer that claims to "need a self-starter" really means that they offer "no training but still expect results," she went on.

If the company says their employees "must wear multiple hats," expect that they are simply understaffed, Gerstley added.

Finally, she translated the phrase, "We're like a family." That means "no raises ever," according to Gerstley.

TikToker Experiences

In the comments below her video, viewers inserted corporate phrases from their own lives.

"'Up to $15 an hour'—you're not making $15 an hour," one comment said.

"Flexible scheduling: we'll schedule you whenever we damn well please," another added.

Toxic Workplace Allegations

Allegations of toxic workplace culture have dethroned a range of high-profile employers in recent years.

On May 26, Ellen Degeneres ended her talk show nearly two years after accusations of toxic culture, racism and sexual harassment plunged the show into crisis.

Popular game company Activision Blizzard announced hiring changes in 2021 after it was sued over "a culture of constant sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination." One female employee died by suicide after explicit pictures of her were passed around an Activision office.

How to Escape Toxic Workplace

Those who find themselves trapped in a toxic workplace may face financial obstacles to leaving, Gerstley told Newsweek. In that scenario, quitting should still remain a "long-term goal."

Where possible, set boundaries to prioritize protecting yourself. If you can, get support either at work or outside of work.
Ashley Feinstein Gerstley

In the meantime, employees who hold a position of power in the company could use their leverage to make changes.

"That might mean taking a mental health day to pave the way for others or helping to elevate the language your team uses in their weekly meeting," Gerstley suggested.

It is also important to prioritize self-care whenever possible, the expert said.

"Take your vacation days if you have them, take a sick day if that's available and go on a walk on your lunch break," she advised. "Where possible, set boundaries to prioritize protecting yourself. If you can, get support either at work or outside of work."