A toxic work environment affects not only workplace morale, but also hampers overall employee productivity.
A positive level of employee morale is the key to a functioning and successful workplace. Many things can cause a toxic working environment, but the effects are universal across companies and industries: When employees are unhappy or uncomfortable, productivity suffers. And when productivity drops, customer service is impaired—leading to a dip in customer satisfaction and, in extreme cases, the complete failure of a business.
Here are five easy steps to cleansing the negativity from a toxic work environment.
Step #1: Go Directly to the Source
When a company is facing low morale issues stemming from a toxic environment, the only way to begin fixing the problem is to fully understand it. To do this, it is crucial to go directly to the source: the workforce. There are several courses of action that organizations can take to gather this information.
Some organizations find that they get better feedback when the comments can remain anonymous, so they collect this type of information through an employee survey. Other organizations coordinate meetings and have the employees talk to each other in a safe, public setting. Still other organizations prefer to speak with employees one-on-one to pinpoint the main issues. The key is to determine which method works best with your workforce.
Step #2: Investigate the Issues & Take Action
Once the information is gathered, it is imperative to use it properly. Be sure to really listen to employee issues, no matter how trivial they may seem. Investigate the most common problems to fully understand them and to find solutions. When the investigation is complete, take action—whether it means having a documented discussion with a difficult employee or updating the equipment at a particular site. When employees see that changes are being made, morale will immediately begin to improve.
Step #3: Close Gaps in Employee Communications
Some toxicity in the workplace can stem from poor communication between individual employees or between divisions/departments/business units or from senior management to employees. When employees are provided with or overhear false information, it quickly becomes a source of negativity as gossip begins to spread through the workforce. Find out where these rumors start, investigate them to find the truth, determine where something was misinterpreted or falsified, and find a solution. In many cases, the answer lies in improving the flow of communications from the top and making sure that everyone knows what they need to know when they need it, as well as opening up avenues for employees to transmit their concerns, issues and suggestions to management.
Step #4: Stop Letting Supervisors Enable Negative Employee Behaviors
Supervisors have countless issues to deal with on a daily basis, and the more employees that are under their jurisdiction, the more stressful things become. This is one reason why it is easy for supervisors to let negative behaviors slide. When they do this, however, it lowers the morale of their entire team and therefore hinders productivity because some employees are seen as getting preferential treatment.
For example, let’s say that one employee is consistently late for work and leaves early at the end of the day. This puts pressure on other employees, who have to pick up the extra work. They put in a complaint to the supervisor, who speaks with him or her once. The worker straightens up and comes to work on time for a couple of weeks before slipping back into old habits. The supervisor doesn’t say anything and the worker continues to arrive late and leave early without consequence. As a result, the other employees become resentful and morale is lowered. It is critically important to overcome any perceptions of favoritism in a workplace, as these feelings can be especially toxic.
Step #5: Boost the Overall Morale of Your Team
Schedule a goodwill event, such as a catered lunch or company picnic. Set up a volunteer program one weekend a month where employees can come together and work together to better the community. Promote good work when it is accomplished and redirect poor-performing or disengaged employees. These are just some examples of actions a company can take to improve team morale.
A great level of employee positivity is key and ideal in any well-functioning work environment. Identify those items which already do cause, or have the ability to cause, a toxic work environment in your organization, and take the necessary steps to remove them for the success of your employees.
Robert Gray is the President of Insightlink Communications, providing the most effective employee survey tools to organizations of all sizes and types. Since 2001 he has been committed to employee retention strategies, exit strategies and more.