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Why a toxic workplace will make your best employees quit

By Emilly Parris

In the last several years, company culture has become one of the most important factors in the decision-making process for job seekers. In fact, many millennials put considerable thought into the type of workplace they enter into.

Employer review websites like Glassdoor and Great Place To Work have made the process of finding the right fit much easier, by giving potential employees an insight into the company they’re applying for. The feedback provided also allows managers to make continuous improvements to ensure their workers remain happy.

While a company’s culture can seem difficult to regulate, you can look at it as a reflection of a company’s core beliefs.

The way in which teams interact with each other, conduct business and manage workflow all add up to a company’s beliefs in action. When these beliefs do not reflect those of your employees, this can create a toxic work environment.

A toxic workplace will not only make your best employees quit, it will also affect your company’s culture in the long term. As a leader, there are measures you can take to improve your company’s culture and attract the best talent.

Here’s everything you should know about working in a toxic workplace:

The effects of a toxic workplace

angry woman boss

A toxic work culture is more than just an unsupportive working environment. It is an attitude built upon resentment and an “every man for himself” mentality. As author of The Future of Leadership, Brigette Hyacinth puts it; a toxic work culture “creates an environment in which everyone is scared, intimidated and often willing to throw their colleagues under the bus.”

According to Hyacinth, “a toxic company culture will erode an organisation by paralysing its workforce, diminishing its productivity and stifling creativity and innovation.” An employee working in a toxic workplace who doesn’t feel supported is much more likely to become resentful and this can affect how they perform their job.

Signs of a toxic workplace

  • High turnover rates: employees are leaving left, right and centre—some of whom have only been working there a short time. This is a strong indicator that something is wrong.
  • Conflicting values: if your business thrives on innovation and coming up with ground-breaking ideas, it doesn’t make sense to hire individuals who aren’t willing to challenge the status quo and who shut down every new suggestion. This disconnect can make your existing employees nervous and create a hostile environment where they feel unappreciated. Your core values must align with the people you hire so that you can work towards a common vision together.
  • Micromanagement: everyone interprets micromanagement differently, so it’s worth understanding what it means in your organisation. Some employees prefer a hands-off approach while others desire more guidance from their managers. However, giving more autonomy and flexibility can create a much more positive environment where people feel trusted and encouraged.
  • Bullying: workplace bullying should never be tolerated, even at the expense of workers who may perform well but are creating a hostile environment for everyone else. 
  • Excessive absenteeism: if people are regularly taking days off work this could be a sign that all is not well. This is an opportunity to discuss issues with your team to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it.
  • A focus on blame and punishment: rather than encouraging employees to learn from mistakes and embrace challenges, a toxic workplace handles its workers by blaming and punishing them. This tyrannical leadership method is a sure-fire way to lose your best employees.

Communication is crucial

communication concept

Companies that fail to create a positive and collaborative work culture risk alienating their existing employees and creating a toxic work environment. If you’re a leader or manager, it’s your responsibility to create a productive work environment where everyone can thrive.

If you suspect that your workplace is developing into a toxic one, try to find out the root cause by listening to your team members without judgement. It may be due to a lack of leadership transparency, lack of direction, micro-management, team conflicts, workplace bullying or a particularly difficult employee.

The only way to move forward is to identify the cause, confront it and take steps to fix it. It also pays to communicate honestly with your team about your desire to improve the situation and come to an agreement where everyone feels heard.

Interested in learning more about management strategies?

Upskilled offers a range of online courses covering topics in management to help leaders improve their leadership style and create a positive work environment for their teams. Speak to an education consultant today on 1300 009 924 to learn more.
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