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Top Tell-Tale Signs of a Toxic Workplace and How to Tackle the Problem

More employees are speaking out about toxic or hostile workplace environments, and the act of ‘outing’ companies has become far more common.

Collecting data and insights, Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR & Talent at Instant Offices discusses why it is crucial than ever for businesses to create an inclusive and empowering workplace environment for their employees.

Toxic workplace culture can cost businesses serious money, raising turnover rates and a damaging reputation.

A recent report by BreatheHR revealed that more employees are leaving their jobs at SMEs due to poor workplace culture. This has risen from 21% in 2020 to 27% (nearly one-third) in 2021.

Biggest Signs of a Toxic Workplace

Here are some tell-tale signs to watch out for in the workplace – these could be symptoms of a deeper problem with the company culture as a whole.

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  • Constant interpersonal conflicts
  • Lack of teamwork and camaraderie
  • Pointing fingers and blaming others when something goes wrong
  • Poor problem-solving as a team
  • Exclusive cliques or social groups
  • Office gossip
  • Work awarded based on personal connections rather than skill
  • Poor communication and lack of clarity around projects
  • Inconsistent communication and mixed messages
  • Unhappy, demotivated workers
  • High turnover rate
  • Stifled/ stagnated career progression
  • Lack of work-life balance

 Jobseekers can research a brand’s track record and get a feel for the type of culture they foster:

  • Look at company reviews from present and past employees on reputable platforms like Glassdoor.
  • Monitor their turnover rate over a period of several months and see how it compares to the industry average.
  • Research how diverse the company is. Find out how many people in senior positions are women or from a BAME background.
  • Pay attention to how they communicate with you and with each other.

Keeping Toxicity Out of your Company’s Culture

Even a small pocket of negativity or toxicity can spread far enough to “infect” an entire company. Once a toxic trend is spotted, it’s important to address it as soon as possible, so it can be stopped. The team at Instant Offices provided these tips below:

  1. Lead by example – behave the way you want to see your employees behave. That includes maintaining a positive attitude, and holding yourself accountable for mistakes the same as you would a subordinate.
  2. Treat every employee with dignity and respect, regardless of their position or seniority.
  3. Don’t play favourites, and don’t scapegoat or alienate any employee or group of employees.
  4. Make sure all management is properly trained on what makes a diverse and inclusive workplace.
  5. Ensure that all employees are properly trained on what constitutes bullying, harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
  6. Provide training that empowers managers to handle internal conflicts.
  7. Keep communication channels open for mutual feedback between employees and management.
  8. Encourage constructive feedback and create an environment where criticism can be shared without fear of “punishment”.
  9. Make sure your employees know that it’s safe to speak up.
  10. Recognise and reward your employees’ efforts.
  11. Promote employees based on skill, not just on likeability.
  12. Foster an environment of open, constructive communication.
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