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Workplace Culture toxicity - A leader's perspective

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Have you ever found yourself working in an uncomfortable environment? Do you know anyone impacted by negative comments or bad attitude from colleagues at work? Has anyone ever been dismissive of your observation or suggestion on what to do about such behaviour? Have you ever pondered on why such bad behaviour is tolerated in the workplace?

A toxic workplace culture is dominated by frustration, lack of clarity and difficulty to follow simple directive due to staff impaired well being.

Signs of workplace culture toxicity:

  1. Sudden cold response from someone who used to be bubbly in nature

  2. Passive aggressive behaviour toward certain staff in the environment

  3. Heighten anxiety and inability to think critically in designated work environment

  4. Constant negative comments, difficulty seeing anything good in others

  5. Inciting others to put in complaints constructed for them

  6. Anger, irritability, undermining each other,

  7. Formation of cliques, gossiping and backstabbing selected few

Causes of workplace culture toxicity:

  1. Individual personality and coping skills

  2. Emotional instability leading to constant negative comment

  3. History of bullying or mobbing behaviour which may stem from childhood experience or past environmental factors

  4. Resistance to change irrespective of how and when change is communicated

  5. Lack of cohesive leadership team

  6. Lack of trust for team members

  7. Past history of tolerance for such behaviour by leaders in the workplace

Outcome of workplace culture toxicity:

  1. Impaired staff morale will lead to reduce motivation to forge ahead

  2. Increase tolerance of such behaviour will make some to believe this is acceptable.

  3. Those that cannot deal with this will be forced to leave, thereby losing great workforce assets

  4. Work performance become substandard

  5. Loss of trust in the team credibility or integrity (poor reputation)

  6. Loss of valuable time managing complaint

  7. Increase rate of staff turn over (unending recruitment that can be stressful)

Management strategies

  1. Allow staff to debrief and ventilate

  2. Provide needed education and training based on need assessment

  3. Ensure staff mix and allocate task fairly; conduct performance appraisal on regular basis

  4. Provide needed support for staff in terms of mentorship/supervision/good orientation right from start - share your knowledge with others

  5. Call out bad behaviour by addressing any complaint raised immediately

  6. Ensure thorough assessment of candidate during interview and reference checks

  7. If there is evidence of bad attitude reported by previous direct manager, this should be considered as a warning sign for potential challenge and management strategy preparedness.

Note that bad attitudes affect everyone at work and it is not to be tolerated. So call it out as soon as it is identified. Review triggers for bad attitude, review available resources such as policies and workplace support put in place to address such situations. Do not keep quiet. You deserve to enjoy life and a conducive workplace is part of life that is meant to be enjoyed.

Enjoy the moment!

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