Counting the cost of a toxic culture

toxic culture

Toxic. It’s hardly a word you would want to use to describe your organization’s environment. But when last did you do an honest assessment of your company culture?

Perhaps you’ve noticed some ‘odd’ behaviors and patterns but haven’t thought much of them: your employees are tired and burnt out; those who used to be enthusiastic now seem discouraged. There’s a high level of illness and excessive absenteeism. There’s gossip circulating and social cliques are forming.

These are just a few signs that could indicate a toxic workplace.

If this is the case at your organization, you most certainly want to fix the problem – and as quickly as possible. After all, it might be costing you more than you realize.

A toxic culture can deliver a knockout punch

According to SHRM, the cost of toxic workplaces in the US has amounted to $223 billion in the past five years.

And that’s just the financial impact.

As you know, unhappy employees are less productive and are often on the lookout for other job opportunities.

A toxic workplace can also cause damage to relationships at multiple levels. Naturally, it affects internal relationships among colleagues, but the ripple effect can quickly cause unsteadiness in client relationships. It has the potential to cause damage to your brand and to send clients elsewhere for business.

On a personal level, it might even start affecting relationships at home or among family and friends. Essentially, the emotional cost is high and letting a toxic environment brew is a surefire way to lose your best employees.

Understanding the root cause(s)

In many cases, one of the main causes of a toxic culture is poor communication. A lack of clear instruction, failure to keep individuals in the loop, and the absence of feedback (or gratitude) can leave employees feeling unsure, undervalued and unmotivated.

Of course, leaders very often set the tone. If a manager is arrogant, condescending, manipulative and/or takes credit for others’ successes, his or her team will suffer. They might be afraid to ask questions or give feedback; they may feel additional pressure, or they might become disheartened by the situation.

Other factors that can contribute to a toxic environment are unrealistic deadlines and unachievable workloads. When this is the case, employees will no doubt feel overwhelmed and stressed, and they might even start questioning their capabilities – not great for morale.

So, how do you fix the problem (or better yet, prevent it)?

It all begins with that honest assessment mentioned earlier. Hold open conversations about the state of your company culture and what strategies you could implement to improve matters. Some of these might include:

1. Building and carrying out a strong integration strategy

 Look at your hiring and employee onboarding process. Are they anti-bias? Are you building an inclusive culture from the outset; and more than that, are you ensuring that all new hires are properly integrated beyond the onboarding phase? A dedicated approach to integration (which usually lasts between six months to two years) will aid retention and productivity, and will help you grow a culture of inclusiveness. Here’s a helpful new-hire integration checklist.

2. Opening up the channels of communication

What are your organization’s mechanisms for feedback? Nurturing an atmosphere of honesty and transparency requires platforms where employees receive fair and unbiased feedback; where open two-way conversations can take place, and that ensure that managers are held accountable. Doing so via an annual performance review may not be enough.

Real-time feedback is far better for employee development, retention and happiness as delayed responses can leave individuals feeling confused and resentful.

3. Creating opportunities for development

Employees feel like they are growing and contributing positively to your organization when they are given opportunities to learn and develop skills. Does your organization encourage continuous learning? Aside from doing courses via an educational institution or platform, employees can learn and expand their skills (and embrace a sense of autonomy) via internal gigs if you make these available. Internal gigs boost morale, encourage creativity and can even lead to new revenue streams.

It can be done!

A toxic culture will take time to fix, but it’s vital that it is. And, by taking drastic measures, you show that you care.

The good news is that there is technology out there that can help you implement and measure new strategies.

Let vi help you achieve these aims and grow a culture that employees want to be a part of.

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