It is a hard thing to admit to a toxic work culture. Identifying the symptoms and finding the antidotes for them can quickly improve morale, engagement, retention, and productivity. Let’s get started with a quick pulse:
- Are your employees tired?
- Are your employees discouraged?
- Do your employees exhibit signs of burnout?
If the answer is yes, you may have a toxic work culture.
We can both agree, that is a problem. Unhappy workers are less productive, make more mistakes, and are more likely to seek employment elsewhere.
Work culture exists on multiple levels. It is not just behaviors; it is also an infrastructure of beliefs and values. To create real and lasting change, your business must tackle cultural issues on all levels.
You must act quickly to improve a negative work environment before productivity lags and employees abandon ship. Before you can act, you must identify what is happening and why.
Identify Problem Behaviors
Every company is unique. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for repairing a damaged work culture. The first step is always to examine your business’s culture to identify your specific challenges.
Start by taking a critical look around you. Before you can make a change for the better, you must face uncomfortable truths head on.
Ten common warning signs of a toxic work culture:
- gossiping and/or social cliques
- aggressive bullying behavior
- poor communication and unclear expectations
- dictatorial management techniques that do not embrace employee feedback
- excessive absenteeism, illness, or fatigue
- favoritism and imbalanced working conditions (discriminatory policies/wage gaps)
- workaholic behavior that sacrifices healthy work/life balance
- unrealistic workloads or deadlines
- little (or strained interaction) between employees or employees and management,
- unsafe or morally questionable working conditions.
You probably will not find all of these, and you may find problems not listed here. But whatever problems you find – take note. Those issues will inform your plan to rescue your work culture.
Evaluate the Underlying Support Network
A toxic culture cannot take root without a fertile environment, and its symptoms cannot survive without a supportive infrastructure.
Once you have identified the problem behaviors, it is time to dig deeper. What shared values and actions are helping to support those behaviors?
Examine your company’s leadership and their values. Then work your way from the top of the ladder to the bottom looking for issues like:
- discriminatory beliefs
- treating employees as assets, not people
- information guarding (poor communication/unclear expectations)
- aggressive or hostile leadership styles
- belief that employees are lazy, stupid and/or expendable
- resentment of authority
- lack of accountability
- lack of appreciation for (or recognition of) good work
All of these are problematic and set the foundation for a negative work culture.
Now that you know what is happening and why, you can work to create a plan to repair the toxic environment and foster a culture that improves morale, engagement, retention, and productivity.
Taking this internal survey may be challenging, especially if there is dysfunction among the leaders or aversion to cringe moment conversations. This is where I can help! Contact me to set up a consultation if you are stuck in this evaluation process.
Click Here to learn more about how I can support your organization to deal a toxic work culture and challenging conversations