3 signs of a toxic workplace

3 signs of a toxic workplace

Is your organisation an unpleasant, draining environment to work in? As blunt as that question is, it’s a fair one.

It’s no fun working in a toxic workplace environment – a place that literally feels bad for you – and it’s no fun to run one, either. 

But not only are such organisations unpleasant, they also represent a variety of risks for stakeholders as fertile ground in which fraud, harassment, bullying and myriad other unethical behaviors are allowed to bloom.  

So what are the telltale signs of a dysfunctional work environment? What can you do to address them? 

Bad bosses and the toxic workplace

‘You don’t leave a job, you leave a boss’, experts say, and it’s true. 

One single disliked supervisor can have a significant impact on a business, leading to low moral, high staff turnover, and a lot worse. 

There’s no limit to the type of bad boss that can exist – from micromanagers, to bullies and creeps, and every combination therein. 

Sometimes it’s about one bad apple, but sometimes it isn’t. Bad habits can be contagious – as can the behaviours that enable them and sometimes one boss’s unacceptable action is really part of a problem with the larger organisational culture. 

The good news is this: strong, empathetic leaders can have a significant impact on organisations too. Leaders who lead by example, always play fair, and walk the talk of honesty and integrity, play a huge part in the creation of healthy companies.

Indeed, healthy organisational culture almost always starts from the top. 

Communication in a toxic workplace

Just as with any relationship, communication is a crucial part of a functional workplace. 

In your organisation, how freely does information flow?

We’re not just talking about commands from above here. Communication is a two way street. Making sure communication channels are open across all levels of the business, and that honest, truthful feedback is encouraged, recognised when it’s offered and acted upon is what’s required to keep the organisational conversation going.

Similarly, gossip, rumor and unrest are also signs that the lines of communication are not working as they should. 

Staff aren’t supported when they speak up

What does ‘business as usual’ look like in your organisation? Are you regularly receiving reports about ethical problems that members have encountered?

Counter-intuitive as it seems, regular reports of ethical lapses are a sign of a healthy work environment – as long as they are coming through the proper channels. 

Employees won’t speak up about problems they encounter in the workplace if they don’t feel safe to do so. It can take great courage to blow the whistle on unethical behaviour in the workplace. Imbalances in power and employee uncertainty around what blowing the whistle might mean for them can make speaking up difficult at the best of times.  

So how does the C-suite react to criticism from employees? Do they embrace honesty and openness and accountability? Or do they shoot the messenger when band news comes knocking? 

Employees need a safe, impartial means to report ethical problems. Best practice here is a secure, anonymous external reporting platform

But equally important, employees need to be supported when they do speak up. Embrace honest feedback, encourage it, and act on it, especially when it’s difficult to hear. 

Creating a better company culture

Building an honest open organisation is no mean feat, but third party ethics training goes a long way to helping.

Independent third party providers help establish avenues for correcting bad behaviour and provide systems and processes that support good behaviour. Ethical training provider Report It Now® can support you in this. Click here to get in touch. 

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