The Disruptive Effects of Toxic Culture in the Workplace

And 5 Ways Leaders Can Repair This…

Toxic cultures are rarely about a “few bad eggs”. It is the gradual seeping of harmful procedures and unproductive norms into the workplace over time. These toxic cultures can cause great loss if action isn’t taken swiftly and effectively. The ‘The Culture Economy 2021’ report conducted by SME HR software provider Breathe revealed that almost a third (27%) of SME employees quit their job due to poor workplace culture, an increase of 6% from last year (21%). This has cost UK SME businesses a whopping £20.2 billion every year to replace staff due to workplace culture.

Because employees look to and learn from their managers, behaviours displayed by leaders can spread throughout the entire organisation, cultivating toxic environments. The belief that “this is the way things are done here” is one that manifests into tolerating and accepting such behaviours.

It can be hard for leaders or businesses to admit that there is toxic culture within the workplace. However, identifying the symptoms, pinpointing the areas that need immediate attention and addressing these issues with solutions can help boost morale among the team, increase engagement, productivity and employee retention.

So how can leaders create exacting change with robust policies and procedures in place?

Here are 5 strategies to help leaders remedy toxic culture in the workplace.

1.    Identifying Problematic Behaviours and Taking Responsibility

This is the first step to understanding toxic behaviours and policies within the organisation.  It’s important that leaders take responsibility for their own conduct and how this may have influenced the situation. These actions may not be conscious or deliberate, so it is important for leader’s not to shrug it off and instead take a reflective approach – allowing for all team members to work together to eradicate harmful behaviours and make changes.

2.    Evaluating Existing Influences and Support Networks

Next, it’s important for leaders to dig deep and evaluate the existing supporting infrastructures that create favourable ground for toxic cultures to take root. Leaders must, together with the team, dig deep to uncover the underlying shared actions that support these toxic behaviours. This could be aggressive leadership styles, discriminatory beliefs, lack of accountability or appreciation, and other such core beliefs. These are the foundations of a negative work culture, so it falls on leaders to ensure these are identified and addressed accordingly.

 3.    Planning a Remedial Strategy

Once these behaviours and the causes behind them are identified, leaders can then begin planning a repair strategy. Change can be hard and overwhelming, so prioritising and streamlining the process is crucial. Hearing out grievances from your employees and peers, understanding how these behaviours affect them is another primary factor in determining the path of repair. Depending on the organisation’s structure and factoring the most comfortable option for your employees; this can be carried out as personal one-to-one conversations, through HR or even anonymous surveys. Focus on the bigger issues to hand first and keep employees in the loop every step of the way.

4.    Executing the Plan Effectively

It’s not enough to just have a well-constructed strategy in place without effectively executing it. John Kotter of Kotter International asserts that leaders are catalysts for workplace change. Making change can be hard, painful and time consuming. But this is important work to help mend and remedy these harmful behaviours and create new paths for a better work environment. Keep engagement with the team open throughout the process, make the procedures easy to follow and solutions easily accessible to all employees.

5.    A Focus on Employee Wellbeing

The pandemic has highlighted several issues within the workplace. According to the survey by Gartner in 2020, it was found that more than one quarter of the workforce (29%) described themselves as depressed due to the pandemic. Despite this, however, a further survey conducted on HR leaders show only half reported introducing new measures relating to health and wellbeing of their teams, while a fifth of employees (21%) say their employer has not taken any steps to help them cope at all. If we are to create safe workspaces and remove toxic workplace practices, a high focus on wellbeing is imperative. Research shows that purpose led organisations out perform their competitors by 42%, with higher rates of employee satisfaction, retention and productivity levels.

It is also important to note that as we move into the future, the landscape of workplace culture as we know it has shifted and is likely to keep shifting. Therefore, to keep up with the times it is so important for leaders to keep revisiting the plans in place, reflecting and adapting the strategy so that the policies reflect the time, business model, workforce and culture.

So how can Leader Executive help?

We understand how creating purpose-led cultures, with high levels of trust and empowerment leads to successful financial performance. We help companies outperform the market by focusing on the human element; their people.

We collaborate with a variety of Food & Drink organisations, from SME to well-known multinationals – helping them harness the power of people!

The best performing businesses have the right organisational structure, a purpose led culture and leaders with the skills and capabilities required to shape strategy and motivate performance. Through our world class and industry experienced Strategic Partners we have the knowledge, tools and expertise to support you in defining your culture, talent eco-systems, and other key areas of organisational design.

If you’re interested in learning more about us and how we can help your organisation thrive, book a free 30-minute consultation with us today. or 0845 680 0820

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