Home Business Insights & Advice Six signs of a toxic workplace and how to fix them

Six signs of a toxic workplace and how to fix them

by Sarah Dunsby
25th Oct 23 2:36 pm

The post-pandemic work culture influenced the so-called “Great Resignation”, which saw record-high numbers of people leaving their jobs worldwide in 2022. After two years of chaos and uncertainty followed by a cost-of-living crisis, millions of workers resigned in search of security and flexibility. While Covid-19 was a catalyst, toxic workplace culture was another huge contributor to the dramatic shift in worker’s priorities. In general terms, a toxic workplace promotes burnout. It’s an unhealthy work ethic that leaves people feeling overworked and unappreciated. Toxic workplaces also tend to be non-inclusive, stressful, and negative.

In this post, company formation agent Rapid Formations highlights the six most common signs of a toxic workplace. They also discuss how business owners can spot and fix these issues to help improve employee engagement and retention and keep their teams happy and healthy.

1. High staff turnover

One of the first warning signs of a toxic workplace is the sudden loss of staff. If you notice that your team is getting smaller and your calls with the recruiter are becoming more frequent, it’s worth finding the root of the problem.

There could be a multitude of reasons for this. Over the last 3 years, some of the top drivers of voluntary resignations have been:

  • Pay
  • Wellbeing/stress
  • Manager effectiveness
  • Organisational change
  • Career organisation
  • Methods of working (hybrid/office)

How to fix it

If you’re not sure why you’re losing people, it might be worth introducing an exit interview process for departing employees. This is a great way to get constructive feedback and understand their motivations for leaving. It also gives staff a secure platform to express themselves honestly.

Without an exit interview process, not only could your company be missing out on opportunities to improve, but it could also instil a sense of fear in your employees, making them feel dispensable.

2. Low transparency

Another common red flag in a toxic workplace is a lack of transparency.

Communication is key, and the workplace is no exception. Businesswire published a Connected Culture Report in 2020 found that over 70% of employees feel more productive and connected to their colleagues when communication is effective and consistent. This is particularly important in SMEs where teams are smaller and more intimate.

If you think transparency could be an issue in your company, the key thing to monitor is information being withheld from staff, incorrect information being shared, or favoured employees receiving news before others.

How to fix it

Miscommunication can be a key influencer behind resignations and reduced employee engagement.

To avoid this, there should be always clear and consistent communication between teams and the overall company.

Any company-wide news like the launch of new products or the introduction of new employee benefits (or any negative news) should be shared with everyone at the same time. Depending on the nature of the update, this could be a scheduled presentation from the director or simply an email to all staff.

Communication should also be well-timed. If there’s something that people should know, don’t put it off – make sure that everyone is informed as soon as possible.

3. Lack of accountability

Everyone makes mistakes, but when someone doesn’t take responsibility, this could be a sign of a toxic work culture.

A lack of accountability could be as simple as failure to apologise for being late, or something more serious. But when people simply point fingers at others, it could mean that they feel vulnerable, unsupported, or lack integrity. As a result, this could stifle both your company’s and your employees’ full potential.

How to fix it

One way to promote accountability is to incorporate it into your company’s core values. This lets everyone know what your company truly cares about and what employees should do to embody it.

Another solution is to lead by example. Members of management set the bar in a workplace, so their actions and traits should represent what is expected from staff. If any of your senior team members struggle with this, they could consider taking a leadership course.

4. Motivation slum

If your employees are losing motivation, this could be a warning sign that things have turned toxic.

According to Teamstage’s Motivation Statistics: Numbers in 2023, an alarming 15% of employees worldwide don’t feel engaged at work, and those who are motivated find that their productivity improves by 20%.

So, perhaps someone isn’t being a team player and disrupting the team dynamic, or people are feeling unrewarded for hard work, so they stick to the bare minimum. It’s important to find the source of the motivation slump and understand what you, as the employer, can do to boost proactivity.

How to fix it

Try a collaborative approach and get your team talking. This could be anonymous or a group workshop to get everyone to share their ideas for improvement. This offers everyone a safe forum to bring their ideas forward and helps you understand the cause of low motivation.

The suggestions that are implemented could be rewarded with a discretionary bonus or retail vouchers, for example.

5. Low team morale

An extension of a motivation slump is low team morale, which could be another red flag.

Your staff might be feeling overworked and frustrated, or unchallenged and bored. Whatever the cause, low morale could cause communication to break down and your employees could lose focus and enthusiasm towards their projects. If left untreated, you could start seeing an influx of resignations.

How to fix it

To address low morale, start by assessing your company culture. To support your employees’ psychological wellbeing, you should advocate honesty and communication to promote a positive, safe, and supportive workplace. You could try confidential 1-2-1 meetings to help people feel more comfortable with speaking their minds.

For anyone feeling unchallenged, perhaps further development through training courses or mentorships could help develop their skills and open up new opportunities at work.

Another thing to think about is flexibility. Research has found that over 30% of UK employees feel that they don’t have a good work-life balance. With flexibility being such an important factor, it’s worth assessing your company benefits.

See if you can offer people more options like flexible start times or working-from-home arrangements to suit their lifestyle. These simple changes could make a huge difference in job satisfaction and, therefore, morale.

6. Department or team divide

A department or team divide can lead to tension and power struggles, which could feed toxicity.

Teams should work together towards the same goal, but a divide could influence hostility and a counterproductive workforce.

Divides in the workplace can come in many forms. For example, it could be physical whereby different teams sit on different floors, it could be a personality divide if some people simply don’t get along, or it could be a hierarchal divide between senior executives and team members.

How to fix itA simple way to unite your departments is to allocate regular time for social interaction and collaboration. A simple way to bring everyone together is to organise team events.

This could be a weekly social or a monthly team-building activity. Allowing people to interact in a relaxed social setting also helps break down any psychological barriers, making it easier to work together.

Another possible solution is to hold regular company updates. Bring everyone together to announce positive news and opportunities for growth. This can help remind your employees that they’re on the same team and share the same objective.

Wrapping up

There’s no doubt that workplace culture has a significant impact on employees’ performance and a company’s success.

By avoiding or fixing some of the common signs of toxicity, you can promote long-term commitment within your team, improve work output, and facilitate mental health and wellbeing through a positive and inclusive culture.

Rapid Formations make company formation easy and affordable. Specialising in the formation of limited companies and LLPs, they currently have over 36,000 business owners on board and are rated the UK’s best company formation agent. Visit the Rapid Formations website to find out more about their packages starting at just £12.99.

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