Does Your Workplace Have a Toxic Culture?

February 21, 2018 By: Dave Rietsema
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Employees and employers alike often tend to accept workplace culture as the norm, rather than analyzing it critically. When a workplace culture is pleasant, it can be welcoming to new employees and can inspire productivity for existing employees. When a workplace culture is toxic, however, it can create high turnover, legal drama, and a steady decline in business.

How do you know if your workplace culture is toxic, though? The following are a few warning signs.

Focus Is on What’s Wrong, Not What’s Right

When there is a constant focus on what’s wrong in the workplace, it can be disheartening to employees. This is especially true when employees have worked very hard on a project or task, only to hear about what more needs to be done or how they have failed to meet expectations. A little appreciation can go a long way.

Discrimination Is Interwoven

Gender bias, racism, and other forms of discrimination are illegal, but are often so interwoven into a company’s culture that it’s tough to even identify individual acts of discrimination. From “locker room talk” to pay inconsistencies, discrimination takes many forms. Recognizing discrimination and stopping the behavior is critical to correcting toxic workplace culture.

Work/Life Balance Is Non-Existent

If employees work long hours, complete tasks at home, and are always on call, it can cause burnout. Creating schedules that allow employees to take care of personal needs and putting measures in place to ensure no work is done outside of those hours or outside of the work environment can help to create a better work/life balance. Failure to establish a good work/life balance for employees will inevitably create turnover.

Expectations Are Unclear

When expectations are unclear, employees may become bored or irritated. Not knowing what tasks need to be completed or how to go about completing them can be extremely frustrating, especially if employees are later chastised. Creating systems for goal setting and feedback avenues can be empowering for employees, generating greater contentment.

Demands Are Unrealistic

Some employers are under the mistaken impression that setting the bar impossibly high will drive employees to perform to ever greater standards. In reality, establishing unrealistic or unachievable goals leads to dissatisfaction and discouragement. When employees feel that they cannot meet basic standards, they will likely start looking for a place of employment that they feel matches their skill level.

Employee Feedback Isn’t Valued

If employee feedback tends to be negative, it can be a sign that the company is doing a few things wrong when it comes to human resources and recruitment. Unfortunately, many employers fail to take employee feedback into consideration because they don’t want to hear bad news. Encouraging employees to provide feedback can give you specific insights into how you can improve your company culture.

There Is No Teamwork

Collaboration and employee relationships strengthen a workplace, so a lack of teamwork may hurt the company culture or indicate a culture that has already gone toxic. If teamwork is encouraged, but employees still tend to shy away from collaboration, it may indicate that employees’ personalities don’t mesh. If collaboration isn’t currently encouraged, taking steps to foster a team atmosphere may help to improve the culture.


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