How to avoid a toxic work culture

  • Employee Conduct
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

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Before I start, let’s make it clear that I’m sure your business doesn’t have a toxic work culture. Rather, the point of this article is to identify the clearest signs of a toxic workplace in action and explain what you would need to do to fix it. See, a toxic work culture covers such a broad range of human behaviours and physical environments that it’s easy to miss. In fact, people stuck in a toxic workplace often don’t actually realise it. Like the metaphorical frog in a pan of water that’s slowly brought to the boil, few notice there’s a growing problem—or even a danger—until it’s much too late. And the end result? Collapsed morale. Flatlining productivity. Colossal employee turnover. Little-to-no business success. All employers must avoid that situation. Here’s what to look out for. Is it really just “banter”? One of the first places to look, and one of the likeliest to reveal elements of a toxic culture, is at how your employees behave. Of course, bullying and harassment create a distressing working environment, but sometimes this can take on a subtler form: a type of aggression that crosses the line but gets shrugged off as “banter.” Make sure you have a zero tolerance approach to bullying and harassment, and make your employees undergo mandatory training that explains your company’s stance. To stop such toxic behaviours, it’s vital to have reliable grievance or personal harassment procedures so that you can address complaints in a serious and professional manner. Busy… or drowning? High workloads, unrealistic expectations, and pressure from managers can be root causes of a toxic workplace culture. Combat it by reviewing your team’s to-do lists and look to share the work out fairly. If you employ managers, encourage them to watch out for struggling employees and give them the support they need. Reducing excessive workloads gives you a great chance of keeping staff stress levels low and productivity high. Think healthy Embrace your responsibility to the physical and mental wellbeing of your staff. Make sure that you have policies that outline your organisation’s commitment to offering support during times of ill health. In terms of practical help, consider offering enhanced rate sick pay or even give your people access to an employee assistance programme (EAP) like Health Assured, which is a 24/7 health and wellbeing support network available online, in person and over the phone. Proactive prevention To avoid every chance of a toxic workplace culture developing, take proactive steps towards creating a happy and positive working environment. Start with inexpensive perks like sweet treats, a team meal or even financial incentives for top-performing staff. Sometimes it doesn’t take a lot to boost morale, so it needn’t be expensive. And the outcome? You keep your business—and your people—in a happier, healthier and more productive state.


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