Workplace toxicity spreads into every crevice and cranny and can mean the end of a successful business if not dealt with.

By Chris Ogden, CEO of RubiBlue

Toxic workplaces are common. They’re also destructive and can cause the organisation to lose its best people as they drift off to find companies that won’t put them under such emotional pressure.

A toxic or hostile work environment usually comes with symptoms, like any disease. Lack of enthusiasm and commitment from staff, poor leadership communication, narcissistic managers or leaders, backstabbing and negative attitudes, and high staff turnover.

It also hasn’t been removed during the pandemic. A toxic workplace that’s moved remote is still going to be led by the same people, include the same conversations, and can actually cause some people to feel even more alienated.

Remote working can exacerbate the sense of being left out or losing the chance career build through networking. It can also put people under even more pressure – the economy is complex and challenging and few individuals are in a position to jump ship in search of a new job. This can cause the company to see a rise in workplace sickness, poor performance and negative behaviours.

As a business leader, if you want loyal people, an inspired culture, and a happy workforce that delivers productive results, you’re going to need to identify the toxic elements and systematically sort them out. Otherwise, your business culture will be defined by its toxicity, not by its potential.


The toxic factors

Toxic people go out of their way to disrupt other people and they can be found in almost every business. You need to implement measures that derail these individuals, that shift their approaches and thinking so that they either change their behaviour, or leave. If your company doesn’t allow for certain behaviours and attitudes, and if this is embedded into your culture, then toxic people will sit on the outside, not causing strife from the inside.

Money can create a really toxic environment. If this is the only goal of the company. If this is the sole driving force behind every leadership decision. Then this will change how people behave. This type of toxicity is hard to overcome and can seriously impact morale, and even if your company has the most impressive revenue in the world, it can still be sunk by a toxic workplace.

As a leader, it’s also important to create organisation-wide clarity. People need to understand what your business vision is, right from the moment they walk in the doors, and they need to be aligned with what these represent. When you hire new people, don’t just look at their sparkling resume and extraordinary achievements, look at them – find out if their beliefs, attitudes and approaches to others match those that are outlined in your business values. And these values should be everywhere.

Founders values need to be defined early and repeated often. This will create behaviours that embed those values and alienate those behaviours that don’t. If your company doesn’t have any founder values, it isn’t too late. It’s never too late. It may take time for them to trickle through the business and weed out the people who don’t fit, but they will soon form the bedrock of your company and shape how people treat one another. It takes about two years for values to become part of a company and its culture, so talk about them often, recognise those who uphold them, and make them a genuine part of corporate life. A few values stuck on the wall won’t change anything.

A leadership that’s defined by company values, that listens to its people, that recognises and removes toxic behaviours and that can pull people towards a positive and productive future is one that will thrive, no matter what the ‘normal’.

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