Is Your Workplace Culture Toxic?

Workplace culture has a huge impact not only on staff within a business but also on your reputation and branding.

How do you tell if your organisation has a great workplace culture? A big clue is when, skill shortage or not, potential employees are knocking down your door wanting to work for you.

It’s no coincidence that many companies in this enviable position are also well known and reputable brands. Companies such as Virgin and Google have an enviable employer branding coupled with phenomenal commercial success – but you don’t need to be a multinational to instil and benefit from a great workplace culture.

Happy people are more productive and more willing to go the extra mile for your business and workplaces where employees are engaged and satisfied are more profitable than competitors with lower staff satisfaction.

What makes an awesome work environment?

In case you are not lucky enough to have worked in an awesome environment (or you have never worked in a toxic one) here are a few indicators of a great workplace culture:

a)    People are respected and valued

b)    You don’t wake up in the morning with a sense of dread at going to work

c)    Managers ask for employee feedback and implement useful ideas

d)    There is a shared sense of ownership and accountability for achieving objectives

People who work in ‘toxic’ workplaces are not engaged, motivated or interested in ‘doing their bit’ for the company. Almost everyone has had an experience of a toxic workplace, at any dinner party you can hear people’s stories of survival and if they have not already left, they’ll detail their plan of escape from their private hell on earth.

What makes a toxic workplace?

If you work in a ‘toxic’ workplace, you have my sympathy. Do any of these horrors sound familiar:

a)    People take credit for other’s work or put each other down for political gain

b)    There is a lack of acceptance of new ideas or change

c)    Customer satisfaction or client service is not taken seriously

d)    There is high staff turnover and absenteeism or theft

e)    Promotions are always internal and based on length of service

f)    There is an ‘us against them’ mentality between staff and management

Toxic cultures breed bitter, cynical team members, drive away top performers and prevent organisations from reaching their full potential.

Now for the good news: a toxic workplace can be saved if management are committed to making the change. If you are part of a toxic culture, or even suspect that you may be, the time to take action is now!

My workplace, Vantage Human Capital, works with businesses who are experiencing difficulty in changing the culture of their workplace. We help these businesses increase profit, productivity and staff engagement.

Below are a few tips to start rehabilitating your workplace culture.

Top tips for turning around a toxic work culture

1. Identify the major problems

This is easier said than done, as most people working in a toxic environment are less than forthcoming to management about providing feedback.

This makes it very difficult for managers to discover the root causes of problems and also to deliver solutions to improve the workplace.

An anonymous employee survey can go a long way to uncovering what people really think about the workplace. People want to be heard and valued, even very cynical people, so give your staff an opportunity to provide feedback and you may be surprised at the suggestions they have to improve the workplace and save money. Sometimes all you need to do is ask.

2. Develop a plan and follow through

Once you have an understanding of the major issues you are facing, you can develop a plan on how to deal with them.

It may not be possible to deal with each issue, you need to determine what you are able to deal with and also what will have the greatest commercial impact. While staff members may like personal masseuses on call in the office (who wouldn’t) at a cost of $70,000 per year there may be little commercial value to the business to do so!


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