Top 3 Strategies to Detox a Toxic Workplace 

Millions of people in the U.K. are leaving their positions for more money and a healthier work environment. Toxic workplaces lead to employee burnout and the loss of valued workers. Leaders may not notice how vitriolic their offices are, which could majorly impact business. Here are the signs of a toxic work culture and three strategies to detox it.

Signs of a Toxic Work Environment

There are many signs of company culture deterioration. Here are some of the characteristics of a toxic workplace.

Untrustworthy Environment

Professionalism is a vital part of maintaining a healthy workplace. Unfortunately, office friendships can sometimes lead to personal falling-outs, making remaining in the environment challenging. Gossip can lead to isolation from colleagues and distract from work tasks. When people feel they cannot trust a co-worker to have their best interests, it can strain morale and productivity.

Leaders must show employees they trust them to complete their tasks. Micromanaging your employees can make them feel their role is meaningless.

“If I had to distill it down to a core theme, that theme would be fear,” Mindy Shoss, PhD, told the American Psychological Association. “Toxic workplaces drain all the energy and excitement out of employees and replace it with fear.”

Lack of Clear Communication

A healthy workplace has clear lines of communication within teams, between departments and with leadership. There is rarely any confusion about what’s in progress and who is accomplishing which task. Misunderstandings can lead to costly errors or miscalculations that damage the business. These expenses can add up, considering only 48% of operations with minimally effective communication finish within their budgets.

While you don’t want your employees to constantly distract one another, a silent office could signify there isn’t positive communication. Missed deadlines, misunderstanding which roles belong to whom and disagreements about the quality of work can lead to stress and feeling inadequate.

Employees who feel confused or unheard are likely to leave the workplace. In some cases, there are much more serious repercussions. In one U.K. hospital, a toxic pattern of communication contributed to higher death rates among its patients.

Disrespecting Boundaries

Work-life balance is vital for the health and well-being of all employees, but it’s easy to forget about your workers’ other responsibilities. Minimal opportunities for paid time off or making someone feel guilty about taking it can create frustration and anger.

Guilt over time off can prevent employees from asking for it, causing burnout. Around 80% of workers in the construction industry aren’t getting enough sleep, which could lead to injuries or death. An anonymous worker told Construction News, “I don’t feel understood at work, and if I have to take time off for any reason there is eye-rolling and huffing. There is no empathy or support.”

Another barrier often crossed is contacting employees outside work hours. The British Psychological Association reports that stress and anxiety is the top cause of sick days. High workloads and lack of work/life balance can lead to physical and psychological tension.

Even a short phone call or email can cause unnecessary stress when someone’s at home. It doesn’t matter whether they are single or have a family. You shouldn’t set expectations about staying late, coming in early or answering questions outside of work hours.

Lack of Support

Without support from team members and leaders, it’s easy for an employee to fall through the cracks. Nearly half of employees feel like management doesn’t care about them. No one enjoys making mistakes, but yelling or shaming can impact their mental well-being. That makes workers less likely to report them, affecting productivity and causing even more stress.

Another way employers don’t support workers is by not providing advancement opportunities. When someone feels stuck in a position, they are less likely to feel loyalty to your company.

Eliminating Workplace Toxicity

These three strategies can help detox your workspace, creating a healthier and happier environment.

Improve Communication

Just as your workplace has a chain of command, it should also have communication guidelines for any scenario that may harm employees or their work. You should tell each employee whom they can go to about their concerns and how the company will handle them. Knowing there are people to address their problems provides support.

The fewer channels a message goes through, the less likely it is to get jumbled. While a large company doesn’t often allow employees to contact the top ranks, you don’t want a process involving more than a few people. The concept applies to written communication as much as oral. Emails or papers can get lost or overwhelmed with responses.

Consider the seriousness of the issue when creating communication strategies. While a question about a project could go through a couple of channels, your human resources department should be willing and able to listen to any worker about safety or harassment.

A clear communication path is useless if you don’t create an environment conducive to those conversations. Emotional intelligence is necessary for any healthy relationship, including professional ones. You should set a positive example by being clear, open, honest and respectful with all workers. Don’t close yourself off from the people who operate your business. Be friendly and encouraging while maintaining professionalism.

When you keep conversations positive, the impact will trickle down to others. Allow employees to share personal experiences but don’t demand it. Encourage workers to speak up if they need a day off or have a concern without fear of ridicule or losing their jobs. Instead of chastising people for their errors, provide constructive criticism to help them grow.

Examine Your Office Layout

The way you arrange your employees can significantly impact your company culture. As companies continue to bring workers back to the office after the COVID-19 pandemic, the instinct to create a “modern” open floor plan can seem like a great way to reconnect. However, research shows that often isn’t the case. That’s why allowing people to participate in remote or hybrid working environments often doesn’t significantly impact productivity.

People like their space, and studies show that having cubicles and other dividers helps employees focus and encourage positive relationships among co-workers. The barriers create privacy that lets workers choose when they want to interact socially and when they do not. They also prevent people from feeling watched throughout the day, establishing a greater sense of trust.

Think about grouping different teams’ cubicles for accessible communication. If you’re in an environment that doesn’t allow for physical separation during work, consider designating private zones where employees can be on their own for a few moments throughout the day.

You can do other things around the office to boost morale. Choosing comforting wall colours, focusing on natural light distribution and encouraging employees to customise their spaces can increase happiness and creativity.

Consider showing your appreciation to workers by providing small tokens like snacks or a beverage station. Breakroom boards can share encouraging notes and give shout-outs to employees for their accomplishments.

Provide Team-Building Opportunities

Team-building activities allow employees to connect outside work and strengthen professional relationships. Research from the University of Lincoln found that high-performing teams engage in team-building, though it’s often to strengthen connections instead of forming them.

Spending time together, having fun and breaking down symbolic barriers between departments and ranks can boost morale. Even if two individuals don’t agree on work matters, team-building activities could help them find mutual interests and understanding on different levels. Understanding one another can create a more supportive environment.

“In supportive organisations, the incidence of mental-health issues dropped by 40%, and workers there felt almost twice as likely to be able to cope with the everyday stresses of work,” researcher Barbara Harvey and her team concluded after examining various businesses.

You should still respect your workers’ free time when planning these activities. Scheduling an event during the workday and before or after shifts can help. You can also invite spouses or families to evening or weekend events.

Some team-building ideas include competitions, escape rooms, dinners, picnics, rope courses, movie nights, bowling and other activities. Try offering something your workers may not typically do at home, such as a day at a theme park or tickets to a sporting event. You don’t necessarily need to make employees work through specific scenarios. Often, placing teams together in a social setting can strengthen bonds.

Detoxing Your Workplace

A toxic workplace can cause a company’s downfall. When your employees don’t feel like they are in a safe, encouraging environment, they’ll likely leave. No one wants to remain with an employer that doesn’t have their best interests at heart. Detoxing your businesses encourages happiness and passion, which will reflect in your bottom line.

Author: Rose Morrison – Managing Editor, Renovated

Photo credit: ThisIsEngineering

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