A toxic work culture is sometimes right under your nose and you don’t even know it. If you are the manager or a boss, think about the work environment your employees deal with on a daily basis. Think everything is fine? Ask your employees and you might be surprised.
Toxic work environments are not just caused by a dictator boss. It can come from employees in a position of power intimidating other employees, employees bullying one another, watercooler gossip, groups isolating individuals, etc.
If the behavior creates a culture where employees are scared, intimidated, or constantly unhappy, it will erode your organization. You will see diminished productivity, creativity stifled, and employees will just generally sad. You might see increased absenteeism, tardiness, and eventually increased turnover. The best employees are often the first to jump ship.
Something You Can’t Ignore
All this can be happening when you as a boss do not even realize there is a problem. (Until you ask!)
Often when there is toxicity in the work environment, your most passionate people become quiet. Employees begin to feel marginalized and unappreciated. According to Forbes, 53 percent of Americans are currently unhappy at work. That is a lot of unhappy workers!
A toxic work culture is costly. It can eventually cost you in lost revenues, settlements, and damages. Don’t let it get to that point.
Now, more than ever, managers need to talk to employees and address issues of workplace toxicity.
As a manager, it is important that you find out what is really going on. Don’t just assume things are fine because no one is saying anything.
While you may not be aware of what is happening, other employees may just assume you are looking the other way and allowing those who are creating the issues to continue or that you even support them.
How do you fix a toxic work culture?
If you hold a leadership position, whether you’re the CEO, middle manager, or team lead, never underestimate the power of your influence. Even if you are not the one creating the toxicity, there are things you can do to improve the culture in your workplace.
It all starts by practicing the following behaviors:
1. Identify Problem and Acknowledge It
- Talk to employees one on one and get to know how they are feeling about work, coworkers, the work environment, etc. Let them know they can be honest and there will be no retaliation or sharing their info with other employees. Talk to employees from all levels of the organization. Five minutes here and there can make a big difference. Ask pointed questions about their feelings and let them know if something is amiss, they can reach out to you.
- Do some research. How many sick days are being used by employees? Are people taking their vacation time? Is the workload too heavy? Are employees taking care of their health and taking advantage of healthcare benefits. Is bullying a problem?
- In a recent article, 10 Shocking Workplace Stats You Need to Know, from Forbes, they indicated American workers forfeited nearly 50 percent of their paid vacation time in 2017. The fear of falling behind is the number one reason people aren’t using their vacation time.
- Inc. reports toxic workplaces are the 5th leading cause of death. Are your employees working themselves to death? Be aware of the hours your employees are working and ask yourself: Am I contributing to an excessive workload? Can it be sustained? Are there changes I can make to fix the workload of any one individual?
- According to The Balance Careers. bullying often manifests as an abuse of power whose targets suffer serious and long-lasting emotional and physical health-harming effects. Not unlike batterers who emotionally abuse their victims, bullies engage in learned abusive workplace behavior because they often get away with it. Bullies are cognitively aware of their actions, changing their behavior when in the presence of superiors, often appearing charming and professional.
2. Develop a Plan to Fix the Problem
- Stop micromanaging.
- Encourage balance. All work and no play makes for a dull person. Productivity increases when you have balance in your life.
- Provide clear communication and expectations.
- Provide policies and follow them. Be consistent and fair.
- Allow for some fun and flexibility. A small dose of fun can have a dynamic impact on the tone and climate of organizational culture.
- Reduce Stress. Time away from work is a major factor in stress reduction. Time away from the job almost always increases productivity when they return.
3. Take Action and Follow through With What You Say You are Going To Do
- Let employees know they can count on you. Don’t just give it lip service. Actually do what you promise.
- Show appreciation for what they do. People nowadays are worn down and underappreciated. These two factors are a breeding ground for toxic behavior–because when people don’t feel valued, they lose their desire to try. Look for the good in others and mention it!
- Be an example and show others the values and priorities you feel are important and expect them to follow.
- Apologize when you are wrong.
- Be Present. Get out of your office and let employees know you are around. That you care about what they are doing.
- Use your vacation time and encourage employees to do the same.
- Take care of your health and encourage employees to do the same. Mention your Dr. visit or eating healthy, exercising and going to the dentist. You are setting an example.
- Be transparent and let employees know what is happening in your business. You would be surprised how many employees do not know what the company goals are.
- Show respect, integrity, authenticity, appreciation, empathy, and trust. Expect the same of all employees.
There is Hope for Improvement
The causes of toxicity and hostility in the workplace are many and created by all levels of employees. But there are many ways to improve a toxic culture.
Talk to your employees today and learn how they feel. If there is something or someone creating a toxic work culture, take action immediately and fix the problem.
Your business depends on it!
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