People Magazine

How to fix a toxic work environment

How to fix a toxic work environment
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A toxic work environment is one in which employees are unhappy, unmotivated and unproductive.

If not improved, the company will suffer overall, especially in its financial performance.

There are several ways to recognize a toxic workplace culture and natural to implement changes you can undertake to improve the work environment significantly.

The Oxford English Dictionary just announced that ‘toxic’ would be the 2018 word of the year. Whilst its original, literal use refers to poisonous substances, this new modern definition of ‘toxic’ and its negative connotations have been used 45% more this year to denigrate elements ranging from masculinity to cultures to politics. Its selection as the zeitgeist of current discourse, however, is particularly fitting given the rise of toxic work culture.

What is a toxic work environment and what causes it?

Unmotivated and unhappy employees will dominate a toxic workplace or a poor organizational culture. It will most likely have extremely poor communication strategy, a lack of inclusion and have little consideration for employee well-being. This lethal combination will also have translated into poor results.

If you are concerned that you might be working in or running a toxic work environment, there are a few symptoms that you can be on the look-out for. The primary identifier of a toxic workplace is low morale amongst employees that manifests itself in gossiping, bullying, successive absences, a lack of initiative and, of course, poor staff retention.
Several key factors that can contribute to, or apparent cause, a toxic workplace atmosphere, especially if left to rot for long periods. They include:

  • A lack of inclusion or discrimination
  • A lack of proper communication or ineffective leadership
  • A lack of accountability or transparency
  • A lack of efficiency

Why is a toxic workplace so damaging?

Essentially, a toxic workplace is the most damaging to your productivity. It comes down to how the overall atmosphere affects your employees. Unhappy workers are:

  • far less productive
  • more likely to make costly mistakes
  • spend most of their time looking for another job and not promoting your company.

Poor staff retention and unengaged employees are disastrous for a company’s performance, as we discuss in further in our articles “Employee Retention” and “The true cost of Employee Turnover.”

What are the best ways to improve workplace environments?

Start with fixing the basics.

Sometimes the aspects of our jobs that appear the simplest can cause the most significant issues. Take HR, for example, if your team is too caught up in the mundane administrative tasks or find themselves taking 5 days to sort the monthly payroll, they aren’t working at the most effective level.

By using an HR software like Aqeed People, that can not only manage and collate your data but take much of these basic tasks off the plate of HR and managers, they can use that incredibly valuable time on much more useful functions, such as taking care of your employees and setting the right example for them.

Recruit with diversity in mind.

In the diverse workplaces of the UAE, multi-cultural offices are commonplace, featuring people of different backgrounds and nationalities. This can be a significant asset as shown by a study at the University of Florida which showed that, “Workplace diversity increases employee morale and causes employees to desire to work more effectively and efficiently.”

Fix the culture from the top.

Workplace culture is directly related to your company’s infrastructure of values and ideals. If your organization suffers from management issues, poor communication and a lack of accountability, your employees are far less likely to feel engaged and enthusiastic about the future. The clearer the values and mission of an organization are, the more successful it will be.

Fixing the culture starts with setting the trend from the company leaders and, more importantly, ensuring that it is implemented by all key staff, especially the HR department. Through the HR team, you can immediately show your staff that your company believes and values transparency and open communication.

These factors can drastically endear your employees to your goals, especially if they operate software that gives employees instant access to the information that matters most to them, without making them run the gauntlet of personnel issues.

Treat people fairly.

Discrepancies between employee treatment, which is very destructive, are surprisingly evident to other members of staff, and can often occur when an HR function is drowned in administrative work and unable to evaluate culture properly.

By utilizing the right tools, you can prevent this minefield and the negative repercussions. Such devices and platforms help you make informed and fairer decisions when it comes to hiring, promoting, and other major company-wide decisions. When an organization treats all of its employees fairly, from top to bottom, it drastically improves morale and empowers the employees to give more of themselves to a company it can trust and rely on.

Acknowledge your employees.

How you treat and connect with your employees is widely acknowledged to be a huge factor as to how they will perform. Gone are the days when companies just had to provide the right salary and benefits; nowadays your staff want to feel engaged and appreciated.

A range of studies collated at the University of York found that non-cash employee recognition was a more effective tool of ‘leadership, of improving performance and productivity, enhancing quality, improving health and safety compliance and reducing absenteeism.’

Depending on the structure of your organization, you could consider a range of non-cash rewards from flexible working schedules (i.e., work from home), bonus days off, treats such as lunches or dinners out and even public recognition events in front of their colleagues.

Communicate more openly.

If you don’t have transparency in your organization, employees feel disconnected at best and deceived at worst. HR can take the lead on more effective and transparent communication that employees can rely on.

By keeping staff fully updated on changes, directions, discussions and sharing goals, you immediately make them feel part of the company and more invested in its future success.

Be efficiently flexible.

Efficiency is a huge part of how well your organization performs, but it doesn’t always only apply to the latest filing trend. You can vastly improve your employees’ efficiency by fostering realistic workloads and considering alternative working strategies that might well be more effective, such as working from home or implementing software that can help employees focus on the more essential parts of their job.

Whatever you do, don’t let a toxic workplace culture fester. If you are worried that you are managing one, it is time to start making changes. It might be difficult, and it might take time, but it will be the most worthwhile investment you make in your organization.

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