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How To Fight A Toxic Work Culture

What is a Toxic culture?

A toxic workplace is a workplace that is marked by significant drama and infighting, where personal battles often harm productivity. Toxic workplaces are often considered the result of toxic employers and/or toxic employees who are motivated by personal gain

Let me break it out for you; how would you know if your work culture is toxic?

  1. Do you feel management keeps you in the dark about newly implemented ideas?

  2. Are there insufficient or delayed feedback and responses from your supervisor?

  3. Passive aggressive comments are a part of meetings and lunch conversations?

  4. Favoritism in applying company rules & regulations?

  5. Been surprised or blindsided by the words or actions of a colleague?

  6. Low Morale at workplace?

  7. Employees afraid of their bosses?

  8. Middle Management are just Figure Heads?

  9. Been guarded with your opinion or avoided sharing feedback with a colleague so as not to rock the boat?

  10. Hesitated to make a decision for fear of others’ reactions?

If your answers are “YES to the above questions.

Congratulations, You work in a toxic environment, and you would find water-cooler conversations more dramatic than a soap opera. And your office culture may need of urgent attention. Don't worry, there is always a solution.

Even if you answered “NO” I’d still encourage you to pause and reconsider your answers, if, in the last few weeks, you’ve returned home and said something along the lines of the following to your friend/significant other/dog:

“You won’t believe what happened at work today!”. You might still be in denial.

Toxic culture impacts productivity, engagement, and the bottom line, not to mention an organization's reputation and employer brand. Organizational culture isn’t an HR issue, it’s an organizational priority. You must learn how to change toxic work culture, because if you leave it unaddressed, it can undermine your business results and damage leadership reputations.

Unfortunately, without care and attention, a healthy culture can become toxic. It can slide into an ongoing nightmare that has a lasting and detrimental impact, not just to the company reputation, but to the reputation of everyone who works there.

  • The Cost of Toxic Work Cultures

Employee engagement is one way to assess culture and is a hot topic for many organizations. Gallup estimates employee disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion annually.

It’s a fairly basic concept, and we all get it: A healthy culture with engaged employees is good for business—and perhaps most compellingly, bottom lines.

Yet, in spite of all the care, attention, and resources lavished on employee engagement programs since it first came to prominence nearly 30 years ago, the needle has barely moved. Gallup continues to report that, of the approximately 100 million people in America who hold full-time jobs, 30 million—or 30%—are engaged and inspired at work. At the other end of the spectrum are roughly 20 million employees—or 20%—who are actively disengaged. The other 50 million—that’s 50% of full-time workers in the U.S.—are somewhere in the twilight zone of engagement: Not fully engaged and involved at work, yet not totally switched off. They’re just kind of…there.

How to Change Toxic Work Culture

Creating a healthy organizational culture is a critical factor for success in the 21st Century Workplace. In researching the book, The Future-Proof Workplace, Dr. Linda Sharkey and Morag Barret had the opportunity to interview leaders around the world about their experience of cultures, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

In their podcast, The Future of Work, they spoke with top leadership thinkers. All shared tales of cultures that enabled employees to thrive, and the horror stories of the toxic environments that crushed motivation and left careers in tatters. A little care and attention to your company culture goes a long way. Wondering exactly how to change toxic work culture?

Here are three key steps.

  1. Role model candor and debate: Organizational values are a great tool. However, a poster is NOT the way to go. If you want a corporate culture built on trust, candor, teamwork then your ACTIONS need to demonstrate this. If your employees feel the need to ignore the elephant in the room or filter their messages in order to fit in and be successful, then things need to change. The change starts at the highest level of the organization – role modelling the expectations, not by a mail.

  2. Leverage the power of storytelling: If your employees share horror stories about your company and the villains past and present that work(ed) there then you need to create new stories that champion the desired culture. Stories are a powerful way to change corporate cultures. Look for the opportunities to reinforce and share the good-news stories. Tales that celebrate the successes and behaviors that are desired, rather than the toxic horror stories that may have been.

  3. Celebrate the role models: Make sure that your reward processes (whether monetary, promotion, or trophies and symbols) recognize the healthy productive behaviors that you want reinforced and not the “toxic habits” that may keep you stuck.

Nurture the Culture on Your Team and in Your Organization

While it’s the employees of an organization that end up being the victims of a toxic work culture, it’s those same employees who can be the champions for change and turn things around. While one person can influence a culture, it’s the people who make a culture stick.

If you now realize that you are immersed in a toxic work culture, don’t panic. You can turn this around. Be the catalyst for change for your company.

Be The Change

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