Tips to overcome toxic workplace culture

Last updated on 2 August 2023

Employees with a recognised voice can be empowered to express their worries regarding workplace culture. [Source: Shutterstock]

Employees working in a toxic workplace are likely to experience the brunt of negativity. Whether it’s decreased productivity, low mental well-being or quiet-quitting, there will be a visible impact on your staff.

However, it can be hard to perceive those issues the higher up the chain you are. When you’re not on the floor every day, working with each and every team, you will miss changes in workplace culture. That disconnect won’t be permanent, though. Sooner or later word will spread when employees are burnt out or demoralised. It’s then up to those with the power to fix the culture and these tips will help you overcome a toxic workplace culture. 

Identify and fix structural concerns

People with the most power have the biggest impact on staff and unfortunately, it’s not always a good one. More often than not, a toxic workplace will have its foundations in management. There are a number of ways this can occur, so, you do have to take a flexible approach when fixing structural concerns. 

  • For example, if staff feel neglected due to a lack of clear guidance, they may not have enough managers in place to provide appropriate support.
  • Conversely, there may be too many cooks in the kitchen and staff find themselves in the middle of power disputes or mixed messages.
  • There could be an individual cause, such as a specific manager or even a C-level executive. If there are specific complaints regarding one staff member it’s essential to address the toxicity at the source.
  • Staff limitations in different departments may also be to blame as employees struggle to cope with high workloads. When individual teams are under stress, negative emotions will spill out.

Give employees a voice

When creating or maintaining a healthy work environment, open and honest communication is a must. Look for new or innovative ways to give employees a voice so they can effectively communicate with human resources and senior management. It could be through regular employee surveys or meetings (such as annual performance reviews) or even in the form of a workforce representative. 

By appointing a representative for each department you have someone external from management who can be a voice for a large portion of your workforce. They’re on the floor experiencing workplace culture firsthand so you have a reliable and trustworthy source of information regarding long standing disputes or employee discontent.

Address employee need

It almost goes without saying, but are you addressing employee needs? Because under-resourced and undervalued employees are likely to have triggered some sort of workplace toxicity.

Employees who are stressed, burnt out, frustrated, et cetera, are going to have a noticeable impact on workplace culture. It might be intentional or malicious, but discontent will spill over as they express frustrations to other staff. So how do you fix that? 

  • Look at how staff are onboarded. Are they receiving all the support they need from day one?
  • Support staff when they make a complaint by actively listening and working to solve the problem
  • Encourage time off when staff are visibly burnt out or frustrated
  • Reward and recognise staff who work hard, instead of just pushing them to do more
  • Provide and promote necessary mental health and well-being support for all staff while working closely with those who are struggling the most

Source an outside perspective

It’s difficult to acknowledge when a problem exists with work culture, especially when you hold a position of responsibility. You may also feel a sense of reluctance to dig deep and find fault. Bringing in external consultants can help alleviate any reluctance as you have an unbiased team coming in to help address workplace issues. 

Through surveys and assessments, they can pinpoint any faults or shortcomings in the organisation, management or workforce. Although this might be a confronting way to deal with workplace toxicity, it gives you a thorough understanding of what has a positive or negative impact on staff. 

This is arguably one of the best ways to tackle systemic issues causing a toxic culture that would otherwise be ignored because the roots are in too deep. Just remember to maintain a positive attitude when involving any external consultants or assessors. They are here to help, not hinder. 

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