9 ways to fix a toxic work environment
The environment we work in is a major contributor to the output and quality of our work.
A significant part of one’s life is spent at the workplace. Be it offline or remote work, both the physical body and mind find themselves engaged for almost 8 hours or more, daily (let’s take a typical 9-5 job).
Now, let’s pause and think.
Is your work environment
If you answered no to one or more of the above, recognize that the place you work at is toxic.
Maybe it’s time to take a close look and address the problem.
Toxicity can lead to emotional stress, high turnover rate, dissatisfied employees and customers, finally resulting in a damaged reputation of the organization.
Toxicity does not spread overnight, nor can you get rid of it in a day’s time. It is a gradual process and a learning curve for all involved. However, there are ways to get started and take baby steps towards bringing about a change. This blog talks about nine such ways.
Let’s take a look at them.
The saying ‘communication is key,’ has been used time and again. However, what does it mean from a corporate perspective? In this context, communication does not end with relaying the decision from higher-ups and expecting employees to blindly follow them.
No one is asking leaders to involve entry-level employees in the decision-making process, but walking them through why a particular decision is being taken and how it can benefit them as well as the company has a positive effect.
Information paired with context makes employees feel involved. The how and why behind an order, when explained, can have a positive impact on the work culture.
2.Craft a clear vision
A lack of direction and confusion can often lead to toxicity in the workplace. Unorganized structure and misinformation create chaos. The employees are left to fend for themselves and fill in the blanks as they think best.
This directly affects the cohesiveness, and motivation to work; it messes up the priorities. The leader in charge should take accountability in making the aim, objective, vision, mission, and all that follows loud and clear.
Employees need to hear and visualize the company vision constantly to actually believe it and align themselves accordingly.
Toxic workplaces accelerate employee burnout. They grind to pick up the pace which further feeds toxicity and the vicious cycle continues. It will be wise to treat absenteeism as a symptom rather than a problem alone.
Figuring out the who, when, and where of absenteeism will give managers insights into where the focus to fix the reason should lie. Reprimanding the employee will only provide a short-term solution. It won’t be long before the pattern falls back into place again.
A caring approach with the intention of helping out the employee with the problems they are facing is a better alternative. Provide a solution to the problem leading to absenteeism, and show the employees that the company cares. It is a positive outlook and does not reek of toxicity.
Can a single individual be held accountable for the toxicity that results from the actions of multiple employees? No.
But, can a leader take upon themselves the responsibility to address the actions and come up with solutions to alleviate the harm done? A definite yes!
The work culture flows from the top down. Employees look up to their leaders. Instead of playing the blame game and making matters worse, owning up to the problem is one of the first steps in a series of steps to address toxicity at the workplace.
5.Feedback is important
Leaders can spend time guessing the source of a problem and acting on those assumptions. However, a more effective method would be to lend a patient ear to the concerns that the employees might have.
Employee feedback about the company is one way of doing so. Remember, some employees might be afraid to talk about their grievances for the fear of being singled out. Maintaining anonymity during the feedback process can create a safe space for the person to provide honest feedback.
This does not stop with just receiving the feedback. The goal of the exercise is to understand what employees see as the negative side of the workplace or culture and implement strategies to address them. Walking the talk is equally important.
6.Visibility, inclusivity, diversity
Diversity is the new buzzword that is doing its rounds in the hiring industry. Celebrating diversity does not equate to forcing it. Understanding that each individual has unique qualities and not enforcing rules to give up their individuality is also a form of celebrating diversity.
Employees come from different social, economical, religious, and sexual backgrounds. The workforce might go hand in hand when it comes to company goals, but there is no homogenous image when it comes to picturizing an ideal employee.
Cultural appropriation is a common practice in many toxic workplaces. It needs to change. Sensitize and educate the workforce. Visibility and inclusivity follow the acceptance and celebration of diversity.
7.Rethink the hiring process
Besides addressing the toxicity which is already in existence at the workplace, taking care that such issues do not arise in the future is going one step ahead and will be beneficial to the organization in the long run.
A behavioral analysis of toxic scenarios and the people involved will provide an array of traits that determine the attitude of an employee. Use this finding to look out for new hires who fit the company culture. Technical skills might get the job done, but it is the way in which the job is done that matters in the long run.
Use hypothetical scenarios and simulations during the candidate interview process. Assess their responses to determine whether they are a right fit in terms of attitude, character, and company culture. Zapilio’s flexible assessments provide innumerable options for a recruiter to gauge these traits in a potential candidate.
8.Failing is a part of learning
‘To err is human.’ The learning curve will not be steep for everyone. Each employee will have their own pace at which they pick up the required skills and get accustomed to the work. Constant comparison of an underperformer with an overachiever achieves nothing fruitful.
Point out their mistakes but also leave feedback as to how they can get better. Highlighting the problem repeatedly without guiding them with any solution makes the employees feel undervalued. Feelings of hopelessness seep in and affect their mental wellbeing.
Help them learn from their mistakes to get a better performance in the future.
Making big promises and not following through is worse than not promising a change at all. It reflects credibility and fairness.
In this digital era, where information of all kinds is available online, withholding information related to different policies, finances, and other related data can backfire. Employees do not like being kept out of the loop, and why should they be? Secrecy can lead to speculation.
Company-wide meetings or one-to-one interactions provide a clear picture as to what exactly a new policy or change entails and asking for their opinion can be arranged. Give employees a chance to question. This can boost employee engagement by leaps and bounds.
It is never too late!
The above-mentioned tips will not give you the best results when practiced separately, but implement most of them, as and when you can, and start rebuilding trust.
Prioritize fixing your work environment. Make it a key objective. Valued employees are happy employees. They stick around longer and recommend the organization to their peers.