Does your workplace have a great culture? Are your employees happy, loyal and productive? Creating a positive culture can take years of hard work, but it’s easier than you think to stuff up your workplace culture in just weeks if you’re not careful.
A toxic culture can destroy your business from the inside out and is one of the greatest risks to your organisation, driving the great resignation.
So, now more than ever, it’s essential to be aware of the signs and take steps to prevent it from happening.
Let’s discuss the 5 steps of how to stuff up your culture.
5 Steps To Create A Toxic Workplace Culture
Stuffing up your workplace culture is one of the biggest threats to your organisation. But, unfortunately, it can often be overlooked until it is too late.
If you’re not careful, it can happen quickly and easily. But luckily, it is also preventable if you’re aware of the warning signs and your organisation takes the necessary steps to avoid them.
Step 1: Hire A (Wrong) Leader or Wrong Talent
The first step to destroying your workplace culture is hiring the wrong person for a leadership position (or anyone for that matter!).
Leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for the workplace and shaping the culture. What if you hire someone who is toxic, manipulative or has a history of bad behaviour? Well, they will likely continue those behaviours in their new role.
A toxic leader is self-centred, egotistical, and manipulative. They also usually micromanage their employees to the point of being overbearing. Toxic leaders care more about their own power and ego than they do about the people they are supposed to be leading. They create a hostile workplace culture by breeding an environment of fear, intimidation, and anxiety.
“Did you know that fear, panic and negative emotions are contagious?” – Sonia McDonald from First Comes Courage.
This makes employees feel stressed, which can impact their health and well-being. According to research by FlexJobs, 76% of employees agree that stress in the workplace negatively affects their mental health and leads to burnout.
Not only does this affect your current employees, but it will also discourage great candidates from applying for future positions in your organisation.
Action: How To Avoid Hiring The Wrong Leader
It’s important to screen candidates carefully during the interview process and look for red flags that could indicate they are not a good fit for your organisation.
Be sure to ask pointed questions that reveal if the candidate is a toxic employee who is ego-driven or likely to manipulate their employees, such as:
● What would you change about your previous employer/role?
● What do you like/dislike about your current position?
Also, do your due diligence and ask referees questions that may indicate whether the applicant has toxic leadership traits.
It’s also essential to have a well-defined job description for the leadership role. This will help ensure you’re hiring someone who is a good fit for the company and the culture you’re trying to create.
“When a workplace becomes toxic, its poison spreads beyond its walls and into the lives of its workers and their families.” ― Gary Chapman, author of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment.
Step 2: Let Them Get Away With Toxic Behaviours And No Alignment To Your Values
The second step to destroying your workplace culture is failing to address toxic behaviour by a leader. This behaviour can take many forms, such as bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
When toxic behaviour is allowed to go unchecked, it creates an unhealthy work environment of fear and intimidation and destroys morale. In addition, employees who witness toxic behaviour may feel powerless to do anything about it.
According to IntechOpen, toxic leadership also leads to a 48% decrease in work effort and a 38% decrease in the quality of work produced.
Unfortunately, it also sets a precedent that this behaviour is acceptable and can quickly spread through the workplace. This can lead to more toxic behaviour in the future as employees feel they can get away with it.
It is also true that tolerating toxic behaviour from any team member, even entry-level employees, will create an unhealthy organisational culture. However, toxic behaviour from a leader usually has an even more significant impact as they are in a position of power.
Action: How To Address Toxic Behaviour Quickly And Effectively
If you witness toxic behaviour, it is crucial to take action as soon as it happens.
The best way to address toxic behaviour is to have a clear code of conduct that outlines what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in the workplace.
Employees, including leadership, should be made aware of this code of conduct and held accountable.
If someone behaves in a toxic manner, they should be reprimanded and given a warning, as well as clearly explaining why their behaviour is unacceptable.
Your organisation should also establish a formal complaint procedure so employees can report toxic behaviour without fear of intimidation or consequences.
If the behaviour continues, the person exhibiting toxic behaviour should be fired from the company. This will send a clear signal that toxic behaviour will not be tolerated in the workplace and will ensure you don’t stuff up your culture beyond repair.
Company Values Drive Behaviour
When you let employees get away with toxic behaviour, you give them a free pass to continue that behaviour that doesn’t align to your values.
Company values are the basic principles, beliefs or philosophies that help a group of people work together towards a common goal as a team. They drive acceptable or unacceptable behaviour and dictate what is important to the organisation and its employees.
And they should be more than just words on a wall. They should guide everything from how your team works to how you interact with customers. When values are truly embodied by a company, they should be reflected in the culture and behaviour of everyone who works there.
For example, Amazon’s values are customer obsession, passion for invention, long-term thinking, and commitment to operational excellence. All these values work together to create a culture of innovation, customer focus and teamwork.
It’s essential to ensure that your company values align to create the culture you envision. But that alone isn’t enough. You must ensure that everyone from the top down is living and breathing those values. Otherwise, a toxic workplace culture can develop when employees, especially leaders, are allowed to get away with behaviour that doesn’t align with the company’s values.
As an example, if your values promote integrity. This would mean that you expect employees to be honest with each other and customers and have strong moral principles. But what if you notice inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour such as backstabbing, office politics, lying, and gossip start to occur?
Then it’s crucial to nip toxic behaviour in the bud early on before it has a chance to take root and fester. By setting the tone, you are making it clear that behaviour is not tolerated.
It’s vital to ensure that your company values are clear and being adhered to for team members and managers and drive the behaviour of all your employees. Otherwise, you must be willing to enforce real consequences and disciplinary actions against anyone who has behaviour that doesn’t align with your company’s values.
Examples Of Company Values
There are a variety of values that companies might choose to adopt, with some of the most common ones including the following:
● Respect: Employees should respect each other, customers, and clients. This includes treating people fairly and courteously, listening to others, and maintaining a professional demeanour.
● Integrity: Employees should be honest and have strong moral principles. This includes being truthful, ethical, and keeping promises.
● Professionalism: Employees should maintain a professional image and demeanour. This includes dressing appropriately, behaving maturely and responsibly, and communicating effectively.
● Teamwork: Employees should work together to achieve common goals. This includes cooperating with others, exhibiting positive attitudes, and being willing to help.
● Customer service: Employees should provide excellent customer service. This includes being polite and helpful, resolving customer issues, and going above and beyond to exceed customer expectations.
● Safety: Employees should adhere to safety rules and regulations. This includes following safety procedures, using proper safety equipment, and reporting hazards.
● Quality: Employees should strive to produce high-quality work. This includes paying attention to detail, producing error-free work, and meeting deadlines.
● Innovation: Employees should be creative and come up with new ideas. This includes thinking outside the box, being open to change, and taking risks.
● Diversity: Employees should respect and value diversity. This includes being open-minded, treating others fairly, and not discriminating against anyone.
It’s vital to ensure that your company values are clear and being adhered to for team members and managers and drive the behaviour of all your employees.
Otherwise, you must be willing to call out any behaviour that doesn’t align with your company’s values and be ready to follow through with disciplinary actions, even against leaders.
Step 3: Walk Past The Behaviour And Ignore Its Impact
The third step to destroying your workplace culture is ignoring toxic behaviour when you see it happening. Toxic behaviour can have a hugely negative impact on those who witness it, as well as the person who is being targeted.
Toxic behaviour can manifest itself in many different ways. For example, a manager might regularly shout at his team members or make belittling comments.
If this behaviour is ignored by those in leadership positions, it can have a detrimental effect on the team. The team members will feel powerless, leading to hopelessness and a belief that the organisation doesn’t care about its people.
According to Capterra, when employees do report toxic work behaviour, only 50% of the time is the issue addressed with a positive outcome. Furthermore, although the issue was addressed, nothing changed 35% of the time. And lastly, 15% of the time, the problem was swept under the rug.
Often, employees don’t speak up at all, as they will have to go against leadership and fear losing their job if they say something.
According to research by Beyond Blue, 21% of employees have taken time off in the last 12 months due to feeling anxious, depressed, or stressed. However, in workplaces that are mentally unhealthy, that number more than doubles to 46%.
If you want to stuff up your workplace culture, make sure you turn a blind eye to toxic behaviour. By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to destroying the positive culture you’ve worked so hard to create.
Action: How To Stop Ignoring Toxic Behaviour
● If you see toxic behaviour happening in your workplace, don’t ignore it.
● Address it head-on.
● Let those involved know this behaviour is unacceptable and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Tolerating toxic behaviour will only lead to more of it and a decline in workplace culture. So nip it in the bud as soon as you see it happening.
Step 4: Lose Awesome People Who Are Impacted By The Toxicity
The fourth step to ruining your workplace culture is losing great people because of the toxic environment. When toxic behaviour is tolerated, it can have a knock-on effect on those who witness it or are impacted by it.
Toxic leaders also tend to have a high turnover rate as employees become fed up with their toxic behaviour and leave the company.
Rightly so, they don’t want to work in an environment where they don’t feel valued or respected. According to GoodHire, 82% of employees say they would quit due to a toxic manager.
Not only does losing good employees have a negative impact on the culture, but it can also be costly for the organisation, as it takes time and money to train new employees.
On average, it costs $23,00 to recruit and hire a new employee, according to the HR Industry Benchmark Survey 2021 Australia and New Zealand conducted by ELMO Software. Losing key employees can lead to a decline in productivity. This can hit the bottom line hard and damage the organisation’s reputation.
Action: How To Retain Your Employees
To keep great employees, you must create a workplace culture where they feel valued and respected. This means zero tolerance for toxic behaviour. Employees need to know that they will be supported if they speak up about toxic behaviour, even in senior management. They also need to feel safe that action will be taken to address it, and real change will occur.
Step 5: Repeat
In this final step, instead of learning from your mistakes, you decide to repeat the cycle by hiring another toxic leader. But, this time, you might be more careful in your selection process.
Still, eventually, the same behaviour may surface, which will lead to a decline in productivity. You’ll also have even more turnover as productive, and positive employees continue to quit due to toxic leadership.
The cycle will continue to repeat itself until you learn from your mistakes and take action to change the culture of your workplace. Only then will you be able to create a healthy and productive environment for your employees.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein.
Action: How To Break The Cycle
Break the cycle by taking action to address toxic behaviour in the workplace. This might mean hiring a new leader, changing company policies, or offering training to create a positive work environment. Whatever action you take, make sure it is aimed at creating a positive workplace culture.
Toxic behaviour can have a toxic effect on stuffing up morale in the workplace, so it’s essential to take action to address it as soon as possible. This is the only way you can only break the cycle and create a healthy and productive work environment.
How To Identify If You Have A Toxic Workplace Culture
There are a few telltale signs that you have a toxic workplace culture. If you see any of the following signs, it’s time to take action:
– Employees are afraid to speak up
– There is a lot of gossip and backstabbing
– Employees are constantly arguing with management
– Employees are disengaged
– There is a high turnover rate
– Bullying or harassment is tolerated
– Leaders are not held accountable for their actions
– There is a lack of trust
– Communication is poor
If you see any of these signs, it’s time to take action to address the toxic behaviour in your workplace. Only by taking action to address toxic behaviour can you create a healthy and productive work environment.
How To Fix A Toxic Workplace Culture
Is your workplace culture already stuffed? If so, don’t worry. There are ways to improve it. Here are some tips:
● Encourage open communication: Encourage employees to speak up if they witness or experience toxic behaviour. Let them know that this behaviour is not tolerated and that action will be taken to address it.
● Implement policies and procedures: Put policies and procedures in place to address toxic behaviour. These should be clear and concise so that everyone is aware of them.
● Hold people accountable: If someone breaks the policy, ensure they are held accountable for their actions. This will show employees that you are serious about addressing toxic behaviour.
● Promote a positive culture: Encourage all employees to live by the organisation’s values. This will help to create a positive culture and discourage toxic behaviour.
● Be a role model: As a leader, you need to set an example for others to follow. Model the behaviour you want to see in your workplace.
Following these tips can improve your workplace culture and create a positive environment for your employees.
Toxic workplace culture and behaviour from leadership can stuff up your workplace, cause a decline in productivity, and be costly for the organisation.
If you want to fix a toxic workplace culture, you need to take action. For example, encourage open communication, implement policies and procedures, hold people accountable, and promote a positive culture. Taking action for the above steps can improve your workplace culture and create a positive environment for your employees.
A possible solution before firing toxic leaders is to consider investing in our leadership development programs. They provide targeted workshops to equip leaders with the practical and positive skills and tools they need to be successful. Leadership development is also an excellent investment that can help upskill your best employees with the necessary leadership skills to promote from within.
What if there is an organisation-wide problem with toxic behaviour? Well, then, our cultural development program can help to create a positive organisational culture. Our programs are tailored to your organisation’s requirements and implement your values, vision, and mission while instilling new leadership behaviours.
Contact us today to discuss your organisation’s culture requirements and for a free consultation.
We are a leadership development and performance organisation. We encourage leaders to realise their full potential, discover their calling, and make a real difference in the world. With us, you’ll find a truly invested team that offers genuine care and support while telling it like it is. We are deeply committed to the success of our clients. You won’t have to deal with the egos of large consulting firms – your success and progression are everything to us. In our work, everyone feels safe and inspired.
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- Cultural Development
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About the Author – Sonia McDonald
Sonia is founder of Leadership HQ and is also a renowned and award-winning author, having written several of her own books, Leadership Attitude, Just Rock It! and First Comes Courage as well as being a regular contributor in The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. She was named as one of the Top 250 Influential Women in the world as well as Top 100 Australian Entrepreneurs by Richtopia.
Through her leadership advisory and coaching work at LeadershipHQ, and founding the Outstanding Leadership Awards, Sonia is internationally recognised as an expert in leadership and culture, organisational development, neuroscience, kindness, and courage.
Sonia is also a full-time single parent and has a passion for women in business and teenage mental health. Sonia travels and speaks across Australia and Globe, and she is on a mission to building a world of great leaders and leadership.