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How to Identify a Toxic Workplace – And How to Find the Cure

Everybody knows the term “bad apple.” But, some people forget that the whole phrase is, “One bad apple is enough to spoil the whole bunch.” Similarly, in a toxic work culture, one person with a bad attitude can poison otherwise good employees’ enthusiasm. These people are also sometimes called energy vampires because they leave their coworkers feeling drained. They spread gossip to stir up trouble or take too much credit when it’s not due while passing off their failures onto others. Those characteristics can spread quickly and leave an office in complete disarray. As a leader, you’re 100% in charge, so it’s critical to be able to spot a toxic work environment and know how to fix it or prevent it from happening in the first place.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure Like poison, toxic workers and workplaces will begin to make people sick. A toxic work culture leaves employees feeling depressed, anxious about going to work, tired, and sometimes physically ill. That leads to a lack of accountability, lackluster enthusiasm, and short fuses in the office.

The ramifications of creating a toxic work culture may not be readily apparent. Still, it always shows itself sooner or later. That’s why it’s best to prevent any improprieties before they happen. Otherwise, managers and business owners will be left playing catch up, and there’s a very real cost involved with that.

Toxic Can Mean a Lot of Different Things

Toxic workers and environments can take many different forms. It’s not always as easy as identifying a racist or homophobic worker. Sometimes, toxicity takes the form of micro-aggressions, favoritism, punishments, or dismissive comments. Managers have to identify both the obvious and subtle things that lead to a toxic work environment.

It’s easier to fire or reprimand someone who acts blatantly awful. Sometimes, though, employees and managers need to dig a little deeper. Does anybody in your company feel bullied? Are managers gaslighting employees or putting anyone down, or playing favorites? These are all signs of toxic work culture.

What Creates a Toxic Work Environment?

From your entry-level staff up to the C-suite executives, everyone has the potential to create a toxic work environment. Luckily, everybody has the power to stop it, too. Any company that doesn’t have clearly stated values and rules is opening the door for toxic behavior. Bad communication leads to distrust. That’s why it’s essential to have an open office with free communication. As a manager, one of your jobs is to allow your employees to feel free enough to share their problems with you.

Five Warning Signs to Look Out For

1. Me-me-me management If the manager is never wrong, who’s going to point out that the car is heading toward a cliff? A job title doesn’t come with the right to put other people down or take someone else’s credit.

2. The rumor mill Gossip and rumors are meant to exclude people. That’s their only purpose. The next time you hear some juicy details about a coworker or employee, keep in mind that whoever told it to you is probably doing the same thing behind your back.

3. Employee retention A constant rotation of employees usually means there’s a toxic work culture at play. If there is nothing good tying workers to their job, they won’t stick around and wait for it to get better. They’ll leave.

4. Unconstructive feedback Giving feedback and criticism when it’s warranted is useful. But, if there isn’t any positive feedback, then it’s just piling on unfairly.

5. Sick calls A Toxic work environment leads to employee fatigue and burnout.

Stress causes people to feel sick, and that’s a reflection of poor management because employee satisfaction leads to a healthier business.

If the employee is happy, then the chances of the customer being happy are exponentially better.

Three Strategies to Prevent a Toxic Work Environment

1. Be generous with your praise. It’s a stereotype that the business world is ruthless. Spread positivity in your company and you’ll see a change in attitudes. If you witness an employee trying to take credit for other people’s work, rectify the situation and make sure you give credit where credit is due. If a team worked on a successful project, take time to speak with every member and let them know that you appreciate their hard work individually.

2. Set up a formal feedback process. Communication is key. Ensure there is a discreet way for your employees to provide both positive and negative feedback about their coworkers and managers. Guarantee that your process is private and leadership won’t use their comments against them. Employees work harder and are more efficient when they don’t have negative feelings weighing them down or fear reprisal.

3. Forget punishments and refocus on training.

Your job as the CEO of the business is to be the coach. Rather than running people under the bus, you’ve got to get them on the bus with you.Publicly chastising or punishing employees can create a toxic work culture and build in-groups and victimization. When an employee fails, it’s an opportunity to reintroduce training to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Also, own up to your own mistakes. That makes the office feel equal. It’s a great idea to treat everyone, even yourself, as part of the same team

Toxicity is Bad But if Handled Correctly, Could Lead to Some Good

Preventing your office from becoming a toxic work environment is the best course of action. Still, sometimes things are out of your control. A troubled employee needs to be spoken to about their actions, and it’s up to management to figure out a solution.

  1. How Can You Embed Trust In Your Leadership Style?

  2. Which Tips From The Above Can Help Build Trust in the Workplace?

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