Thursday, April 21, 2016

Toxic Workplace Culture?

How to know you need a culture change

Last week I talked about what HR can contribute to culture change efforts. So, let’s talk about one type of workplace culture that needs changing. Do you have a "toxic" workplace?

Once you’ve actually looked around – with eyes (and ears) wide open – what’s going on in your workplace, do you know what’s it telling you? Here are some signs that your culture is toxic to you, your employees and the organization as a whole.

Candidates are not breaking down your door. As of February of this year, there were 5.4 million job openings; the labor market is still unstable. Your workplace culture is broadcast to the outside world. If the word is that things are not all that peachy within your walls, good candidates are not likely to be seeking you out. On the other hand, some aspects of your toxic culture may actually attract the type of candidate you don’t really want.

Chronic High Stress - The work you do may be intense on a fairly regular basis, but there are few periods of "downtime" allowing people to recover. Is this just the way it is, or is this high stress environment created? Do you encourage "firefighters", or is there a consistent state of fear or confusion over management expectations or organizational direction?

Low Morale - Employees are in a bad mood frequently; there’s more negative gossip and very little enthusiasm for doing the job well.

Immature/Ineffective Leadership – You have managers and supervisors who are immature, dysfunctional leaders. This can be characterized by:
  • Cold and unemotional or excessive emotionality and reactivity
  • Conflict avoidance
  • Unwillingness to listen to others
  • Poor communication
  • Aggression, intimidation or bullying
  • Hypocritical - doesn't walk the talk; i.e., says he or she embraces teamwork, good communication, trust, integrity, honesty, etc., but doesn’t display that very behavior.
Chronic resistance to change. Most people find change difficult, and we sometimes resist it, even if we think it will be good in the end. But, if heavy resistance is the norm in your organization, it can be devastating to any effort. 

Heavy turnover. Some industries experience high turnover on a regular basis. But if your does not, or if your turnover is higher than expected, for longer than expected, your culture may be to blame. If your entry-level employees are regularly leaving before a year is up, you need to find out why.

Poor Communication – Your messages just don’t get through, even though you think you’ve communicated them. How are those messages being relayed down the line? Does anyone even care to hear your message? How is feedback being relayed up the line? Do employees feel free to share their feedback with you and your supervisors and managers?

Scapegoating – A culture of blame is probably one of the most damaging situations you can have. . Employees are belittled or marginalized; even high performers are criticized for incompetence (real or manufactured), and employees that leave are blamed for poor performance. While there are times when it may be necessary to determine who made what mistake, a heavy emphasis on blame is in no way productive.

Negative cliques survive and thrive. This is the "mean girls" environment, but more widespread. Employees form a negative clique whose members behave like the worst of immature teenagers. They put a negative spin on practically every company initiative; they are mean-spirited and feed off the negative momentum and gain strength from each other. When a new person joins the company, they go out of their way to befriend that person. They work swiftly to indoctrinate the new kid on the block to their way of thinking.

Increased Physical and Emotional Illness - You’re seeing more absenteeism or instances of "presenteeism" where an employee is present, but not engaged or even functional. You may be seeing more musculoskeletal problems, gastrointestinal upsets, anxiety and depression, and even more serious maladies like autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.

Toxic workplace cultures can kill your business. At a minimum, your overall performance and productivity will suffer, as will employee welfare. If you’re seeing man of these signs, it’s time to take charge and turn it around.

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