Two signs of a toxic workplace environment (and how to fix it)

While no workplace environment is perfect, there are some companies that have toxic cultures. A toxic work environment can severely impact productivity, zap motivation, and significantly reduce employee retention. Not surprisingly, company leaders and managers have a great deal of influence over workplace culture. Here are two signs of a toxic workplace environment — and some steps to take to fix it:

Poor communication. Communication is one of the biggest issues companies struggle with, both in the workplace and in their personal lives. Business leaders must make a commitment to communicating effectively and often to their employees. Yet some companies provide little information to their employees on a daily and weekly basis.

This lack of communication can wreak havoc internally. It usually exists when rumors starts to circulate about what’s happening in company or a particular division or a leader. When people start to speculate, it means no one is communicating enough or communicating effectively. Stop the speculation and give clear answers. If you start to see an increase in your turnover, it’s because employees are uncertain about the stability of the company due to perhaps lay offs or the shutdown of a particular department.

In good times and bad, employees need to understand their company’s mission, their individual roles in their companies, their company’s current condition and where their company is headed. They also need to get constructive feedback regularly — each employee deserves to know what they are doing right and wrong — not just at their annual performance review. An employee should never have to guess how they are doing.

Favoritism. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to succeed. Leaders can experience unconscious bias just like anyone else, which might entail favoring some employees over others for reasons other than pure achievement and dedication to their jobs. For instance, unconscious gender bias is still common in workplaces, where women are sometimes perceived to be less focused in their jobs due to children or more likely to leave their jobs in the future when they want children. As a business leader, it’s your job to make sure that employees aren’t under the impression that only a select few favorite employees are liked by management and get opportunities to advance.

Employees are always looking at how others are treated especially with project delegation and attendance. You have to be consistent and fair across the board and if someone is chastised for being late, everyone must receive the same treatment. Things to monitor:

  • Are you going to lunch with one subordinate more than another?
  • Are you allowing someone to come in late or leave early on a regular basis, but not offering this courtesy to other team members?
  • Do you approve more company perks more than usual for a particular group?

These are all the things that employees are watching and can be deemed as favoritism. To avoid favoritism, put consistent practices in place for your team and communicate what your practices are to all so there are no misunderstandings.

In short, a corporate culture is a living and breathing concept. Managers need to be intentional in their practices in order to avoid falling prey to toxic habits.

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