We live in an era in which civility is on the decline. Examples of bad behavior can be found just about everywhere—in our government, in our schools, at sporting events and during the rush-hour commute. It’s pervasive on social media.
Perhaps the most debilitating incivility is found in our workplaces. To spend an entire workday immersed in a dysfunctional, stressful environment destroys employees’ physical and mental well-being and kills productivity.
In July 2019, SHRM commissioned a survey of the U.S. workforce to better understand the importance of workplace culture and its profound impact on employees. Some of the key findings from the report, which will be released on September 25, address the human and business costs (i.e. unhappiness and $223 billion, respectively) of bad work culture.
Toxic cultures don’t always involve overtly aggressive bullies. Questionable leadership styles, negative communication patterns and poorly implemented policies and procedures can also cause angst. Short-sighted and rigid management directives, such as discouraging flexible work schedules or forcing employees to think or behave in a particular way can also disempower and demotivate staff.
The blame cannot solely be placed on the toxic individuals, as such people will always exist in every organization. It’s more about the cultures that allow bullies and toxic leaders to survive and thrive. It’s about the workplaces that quietly ignore them—or, worse, that reward and promote them. Employers can’t allow bad behavior to persist in silence, but should encourage People Managers to have honest conversations about workplace culture with individual employees and to take the pulse of their experiences at work.
Ultimately, every person in an organization is responsible for his or her actions. Every person can have an impact by making an intentional decision to treat co-workers with kindness and respect.
How are you working to remove toxicity from your workplace and create a healthier culture?
Please join @shrmnextchat on September 25 for #Nextchat: Taming a Toxic Workplace Culture. We’ll chat with HR professionals from around the world about how to identify and remove the toxic elements from your culture to build healthier, happier and more-productive organizations.
Q1. What are the signs of a toxic workplace culture, and what forms of toxicity have you personally witnessed or experienced?
Q2. How can HR fix a toxic culture in an organization where the CEO and/or other senior leaders either exhibit toxicity themselves or reward and promote toxic high-performers? Is it a lost cause?
Q3. Other than lost productivity, what and where are the hidden (or not so hidden) costs of workplace toxicity to an organization?
Q4. Toxic workplaces are more at risk for lawsuits. What legal issues are most common in a toxic workplace?
Q5. How can organizations improve talent acquisition strategies and practices to prevent hiring toxic employees in the first place? What is your HR team doing?
Q6. How can organizations use surveys and other feedback collection methods to identify the sources of toxicity that may go unreported due to fear? What questions should be asked?
Q7. How can organizations use performance management and counseling to rehabilitate toxic employees? What/where is the “line in the sand” for termination?
Q8. What advice can you share with other HR professionals who are trying to fix toxic cultures in their organizations?