If you look at teams that are happy, engaged, and doing their best work, they typically have one thing in common—they work in a healthy and supportive work environment. But the opposite is also true, and a toxic work culture can not only cause serious issues for your team—but serious issues for your business.
Let’s look at a few common pitfalls in a toxic work environment.
Most employees say bad communication is one of the top indicators of a bad or stressful work environment. Employees feel left out when they don’t know what’s going on. They tend to fill voids with assumptions and misinformation. Communication is the root cause of bad organizations—or good organizations operating poorly. Bad communication often leads to confusion and a lack of purpose for employees.
Every team has occasional conflict or disagreements; it’s part of working collaboratively. But if those conflicts are constant—or particularly mean-spirited—it could be a red flag that the work environment has gone toxic. All that conflict can make it harder for teams to collaborate—and make it harder to move forward on team and organizational goals.
Spend some time observing and interacting with your team to see where, how, and why conflict arises; For example, you may find the main source of conflict is that your team has trouble agreeing on what to do and how to do it. In that case, setting clear expectations and making sure all team members are clear on who is responsible for what at the onset of a project—can help to resolve conflict.
Producing results is an important part of running a sustainable business. But when those results come at the expense of the team, for example, by forcing your team to work unrealistic schedules in order to hit a quarterly goal, a sign of a toxic work culture. If you realize your culture is too results-oriented, it’s important to take steps to bring things back into balance—and make sure you’re taking care of your team as they work towards those results.
Employees may not look overwhelmed – and if they’re remote, you wouldn’t see it anyway – or say outright they’re stressed. But they’re overwhelmed. In some ways, they’re so used to it after a pandemic year, they don’t even recognize the stress and burnout.
When your team is scared to speak their mind or make mistakes, innovation is impossible, which can make your organization less competitive. Plus, if employees feel like they can’t speak up or try new things at work without the fear of repercussions, eventually, they’re going to get sick of walking on eggshells—and bring their voice and ideas elsewhere.
Remember, reacting to, and correcting, signs of a toxic work culture is only one part of the equation. If you really want the kind of culture where employees (and, as a result, the organization) thrive, you need to be proactive in building that culture from the get-go.
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