Updated November 2021 What is the mood, or culture, at your workplace? Do you enjoy being there? Is there a feeling of unity and teamwork or would you prefer to be at the dentist rather than spend another day in the office with “those people?” The work environment plays a huge role in a well-functioning company, and a key role in any company’s success. If you work in a toxic culture, chances are no one there is happy, and the entire company is suffering. If this is the case, the next question is, “Can this kind of environment be repaired?”
It Starts with the Leadership
First off, how does a workplace turn toxic to begin with? You might think it’s because of a couple of bad seeds who wreck things for everyone else. While the bad seeds play a key role, the real problem starts with the leadership in the company. When a workplace turns toxic it’s because leadership either didn’t see what was happening, or they simply chose to ignore it. In other words, it all falls on the leadership to set the right tone in the workplace. If they fail to do this, then anything can, and usually will, go wrong.
Time to Get Fixin’
The first step is to recognize the problem and accept it exists, but then what do you do after you know you have a problem? Leaders must start by accepting responsibility for the problem rather than blaming others, and by leading out in taking the appropriate steps to promote the changes needed. That could mean facing some harsh realities about oneself as a leader. However, good leaders have the ability to look at their mistakes, accept the need to change, and then start the process to make those changes.
Take an In-Depth Look
The next step is to take a closer look at the issues causing the toxicity in your work environment. There are various ways a culture becomes toxic, so specifically identify those which are affecting your workplace. Start by looking for any signs of people who are using the following tactics in their interactions with the rest of the team: status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. If you observe these behaviors, they must be addressed and corrected as they all lead to toxicity and therefore, less productivity.
Restore the Peace
The next step is to show compassion for those who are suffering. The goal is to bring back a feeling of peace and emotional security in the workplace. This is done by reducing fear and anxiety and restoring a feeling of psychological safety. You need to eliminate any threatening or toxic behaviors and establish respectful communication and positive feedback instead. When everyone in the workspace feels safe, productivity will increase.
Share Your Plan
Lastly, it’s important to create and make your plan to ‘restore the peace’ well known. Everyone should be aware and involved in the restoration process. By identifying each person’s strengths and pinpointing his or her role in the plan, you can proactively involve everyone. Provide a plan everyone can access and make sure it facilitates giving and receiving feedback. Most of all, show compassion and encourage everyone to come together to create a non-toxic culture, and a truly safe place to work.
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