How to improve a toxic work environment

It’s no secret: with work, comes stress. In fact, surveys from the American Psychological Association find, each year, that money and work are the top two sources of significant stress for adults. Unfortunately, we can’t always see right away when our current environment starts harbouring negative feelings. It’s important to be aware of what toxicity in the workplace actually looks like in its early stages

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on When I Work

To create a more positive outcome for you and your workplace, try these tips to reverse a toxic work environment.

Focus on solutions, not complaints

Nothing is more toxic and contagious than employees complaining. Whether it be bad-mouthing each other, or the leadership team, complaints show a mentality of defeat rather than a feeling of empowerment generated by the workplace culture.

What do you want to overhear instead? Solutions. When workers believe they can change any problems that arise, they take action to alleviate issues instead of passively complaining. Positive growth is sure to occur when the focus turns to what is going well, and what can be done better.

Increase input from employees

When workplace leaders don’t ask for input, employees will believe they aren’t valued, leading to decreased productivity and contribution. By showing employees their opinions are valued, they’ll naturally feel more fulfilled and will offer their best work to their companies. Your employees are your greatest asset, especially when it comes to workplace growth; don’t let that resource go untapped.

Encourage responsibility

When your staff members withdraw from their own professional responsibilities, and leave other staff members picking up the pieces, it sends a blatant message of disrespect to both fellow employees and the workplace as a whole.

Instead of letting laziness slide, be proactive and try these tips to promote responsibility in the workplace. If you’re taking steps to improve the culture, but are still seeing negative behaviour in an employee, more serious action – such as a write-up or firing – might have to be taken.

If this is the unfortunate case, you need to be prepared to hire someone new. Fill the open position with the best candidate as quickly and efficiently as possible using recruiting software.

Foster positive relationships among employees

Animosity between employees is a key ingredient of a toxic culture. Of course, it’s a given that your employees won’t necessarily be best friends; however, all employees should be expected to complete their job responsibilities and collaborate with staff and customers in a courteous manner.

To get the ball rolling, try these fun and unique team building activities. See how many hard feelings are left after a game of ‘organisational Jenga’!

Define your culture – and live by it

A critical component of any workplace’s success comes from outlining a purpose and vision. While most organisations have mission statements, many haven’t taken the one step further to use the mission to define the values of the workplace’s culture.

For example, when Zappos was in its first few months, the employees came together to define their core values; from here, they developed their culture, brand and business strategies, which were clearly successful. With points such as ‘create fun and a little weirdness’, the input from the Zappos employees was the backbone of a positive and encouraging workplace environment.

Coach your problem employees

Most workplace’s have at least one person that the whole team points to as ‘the problem’. This doesn’t come from a mentality of blame, but rather from acknowledging that a person with a negative attitude, and poor work ethic, truly does affect daily operations and stunts workplace growth. But what can be done about such a person, short of firing them?

In his book Taking People With You YUM! CEO David Novak shared a story about an employee who constantly wanted to cut costs at every opportunity – rather than adding value – and turned every meeting toward a negative direction. Novak didn’t want to let him go, so he had a frank chat with this employee – who, acting on this constructive feedback, began to adjust his attitude to the benefit of the whole team. “I still believe in replacing people who are getting in the way of progress, but you need to be a coach first before you can make the right call,” Novak writes in his book.

Long story short: before jumping to stern disciplinary action, try your hand at mentoring; you might inspire a shift in attitude.

Focus on exceeding expectations

Lastly, a great way to boost morale across the whole workplace is to implement a focus on exceeding expectations for everyone you come across during your day. Employee-to-employee, manager-to-employee – each interaction should have the emphasis of ‘going the extra mile’.

When you are working in, and running, a thriving professional environment, you’ll notice that employees are taking ownership for their actions and attitudes. You’ll see your entire team collaborating on projects and offering suggestions to solve problems. You’ll recognise your employees taking pride in their work and their contributions, which leads to a workplace filled with purpose and meaningful output.

The most beneficial result? When your employees feel valued they give loyalty, dedication and hard work to your workplace. These steps become a cyclical effect of upward movement that will propel your workplace toward increasing productivity, affirmative mindsets and growth in workplace revenue.

Making a conscience effort to implement these tactics could solve a toxic work environment, which should result in everyone in the workplace being happier and, subsequently, more productive.

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