Combatting A Toxic Workplace Culture - Tilson

When asking an employee to explain what it is like to work for their employer, there is one word that a company never wants to hear. Toxic. The word toxic is described as being destructive, harmful or unpleasant, which creates an undesirable workplace atmosphere. Not only is toxicity detrimental to an organization’s culture and morale, it is very costly for business owners as well.

According to research conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), within the past five years, turnover has cost employers over $223 billion, due to poor workplace culture. Thus, it is imperative for companies to be able to identify and address toxic workplace behaviors.

A key indicator that the culture is amiss, due to toxicity, is employee’s behavior. Individuals who are impacted by a negative work environment may demonstrate the following traits: decreased productivity, excessive absenteeism, lack of motivation or creativity, and strained interactions. The Workplace Bullying Institute reported that 79.3 million American workers are affected by workplace bullying.

Avoidance or denial is a stance that leadership can take when learning that culture of the organization is unhealthy. Instead of turning a blind eye to the characteristics mentioned above, use it as an opportunity to grow and reshape the workplace atmosphere to what it should be. Outlined below are steps from Jeremy York’s, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, June 2021 presentation ‘Toxic Workplace Culture: What Do You Do?’  to address workplace toxicity.

1. Identify Toxic Behavior

Toxic behavior can appear in many forms including bullying, harassment, passive aggressiveness, dictatorial management, favoritism, and poor communication.

2. Create Simple Reporting Mechanisms

Human Resources or members of management cannot be the only people in the organization trying to identify toxic behavior. Thus, all employees should be encouraged to participate and have access to the reporting system. Reporting should be easy and not cumbersome.

  • Try offering online reporting, instead of completing a paper form.
  • Many people will shy away from speaking up, so offering anonymous reporting should also be an option.
  • Provide updates to employees who report a situation, if they chose to provide their name.

3. Take Action

Once toxic behavior has been identified, prompt action should be taken.

  • Meet with the victim and any witnesses. Clearly document the conversation(s).
  • Meet with the accused employee, and clearly document the conversation. Listen to the employee to understand their version of the situation. Explain the toxic behavior to them. Cohesively determine a solution for moving forward.
  • Track progress by scheduling follow-up meetings with the toxic employee and any other staff members who were impacted by the behavior.

Workplace culture is a responsibility that should be fulfilled by every employee within an organization. When concerns are heard, addressed, and resolved, it creates buy-in from employees and builds a stronger and more successful organization.

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