Working in an environment that doesn’t feel positive – or, worst of all, one that feels toxic – is not only unpleasant, detrimental to growth, development and mental health, and de-motivating, but also has been proven to hinder staff productivity. And that’s without taking a pandemic into account!
In a post-Covid world, employees face new and unexpected challenges; as such, it’s more important than ever that senior management teams strive to eradicate any negative facets of workplace culture, and create a positive and supportive atmosphere in which their staff can flourish.
What’s a Toxic Workplace Culture?
If it was easy to define an existing culture as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – ‘positive’ or ‘toxic’ – it’d be easier to know how to change it; but, unfortunately, there often isn’t one standout factor that determines the atmosphere of an organisational environment. However, there are some key elements that contribute to the general feeling of a workplace – and these are things that should be continually monitored and assessed:
Non- diverse leadership. It’s often said that change starts at the top – and if the board of directors or senior management team is full of personnel from the same background, ethnicity, age group, it can feel polarising. It also means that fresh perspectives are not being offered – the ‘yes men’ culture - and the opinions being put forward may not reflect the rest of the organisation.
Generational clashes. Here at Billsby, we believe at diversity at all levels – which means age should be no barrier to employment (whether young or old). However, it is also true that expectations around how workplaces should operate have changed vastly in the last few decades, and this can create tension between younger and older members of staff. It’s important to combat this with regular teambuilding exercises and check-ins to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to work attitudes and practices.
Unmotivated staff. It may sound obvious, but high levels of dissatisfaction among staff can create a negative environment. If someone is unhappy at work, they are unlikely to perform to the best of their ability, and may be more combative with other members of their team; moreover, they are likely to speak out about the things that bother them – whether it’s a management issue, a complaint about work procedures, or something else. This ‘negative’ talk might be warranted, and should be addressed, because it will affect not only the person doing the talking but also the people around them.
Why It’s Important to Combat a Toxic Workplace Culture
Aside from those considerations already discussed, there are several reasons to fight hard against a toxic culture – whether it’s ingrained or only in the early stages of the development. Here are just a few:
Protecting reputation. From recruiting staff to attracting – and keeping – customers and even suppliers, a strong reputation is a must in the modern-day era. And it’s not just about service, any more; companies are now assessed and judged based on their internal culture, not only their external-facing brand identity. If you treat your staff well, talented individuals are more likely to want to work for you – and customers are more likely to want to do business with you.
Managing staff expectations. Culture can feel like a nebulous thing; nonetheless, employees will have their own ideas about what a company should be like to work for, and that can depend on a variety of factors. For example, a prospective employee might have read about your company prior to working there – either in publicity materials or customer reviews or even staff testimonials – and this could cause them to form preconceptions. Additionally, the type of business – or your brand – might create an expectation around workplace culture: startups, for example, are often perceived to be more progressive, with greater opportunity for promotion, development, open communication and positivity. It’s important to evaluate your workplace culture with this in mind, therefore.
Retention. Perhaps the most important item on the list. After all, there’s no point hiring the most productive, talented individuals in your industry if you aren’t able to keep them… and a company really is only as good as its workforce. If your staff turnover levels are high, that could be a clear indication that there’s something amiss – and you should make investigating the root cause (and making improvements) a top priority.
Are you concerned about the atmosphere in your workplace or curious to see what impact a culture shift could make? Be sure to read the first article in our series, ‘The Impact of a Positive Workplace Culture (Part One)[ https://www.billsby.com/2021/06/10/impact-positive-workplace-culture-part-one], for more helpful advice on making positive changes.