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How to Detoxify a Toxic Workplace

Ella Baker
How to Detoxify a Toxic Workplace
Reading time 5 Mins
Published on Sep 25

Is your workplace a second home for employees or a waking nightmare? If your employees are frequently voicing concerns that go unaddressed, seem overworked, or have become disengaged, it may be a sign that your workplace culture has turned toxic. When employees become unhappy in the workplace, that dissatisfaction can quickly carry over into their private lives, lead to stress-related depression, and contribute to a sharp increase in turnover for your company. If you’ve noticed that your employees seem to be operating in a dysfunctional environment, here are a few tips that can help eliminate a toxic workplace.

Turn complaints into solutions

Few things can be as damaging to a work environment than complaints – especially when those concerns fall on deaf ears. When employees voice their misgivings about other employees, company leadership, or processes, management must be ready to listen and respond to keep the workplace environment from devolving further.

Allowing employees to air grievances and taking steps to address those issues demonstrates that their experiences and opinions are valued by management and owners. Hold one-on-one, small group, or town hall meetings where employees are free to share their concerns and discuss issues that need to be addressed.

As part of these discussions, ask employees to brainstorm ideas for improvement and then work to implement the most constructive solutions. Empower employees and lower management to make necessary changes to their daily workflow or other processes when they see a problem. Combatting toxicity by creating positive attitudes and growth is much easier when employees have the power to remedy everyday issues in the workplace.

Bringing balance to prevent a toxic workplace

A happy, content environment that is not a toxic workplace requires striking a delicate balance between the needs of the company and the personal lives of employees. When individual employees are subjected to unfair power dynamics, imbalanced workloads, demanding schedules, and other pressures, the toxic effects can quickly spread throughout the office.

Management should carefully evaluate the individual workloads of employees, making sure that no individual or small group of employees is carrying a disproportionately high amount of the burden. Encourage employees to come to management about their workload concerns without fear of repercussion. When tasks are distributed evenly amongst all employees, more work can be done with less time spent stressing about what is being missed.

Additionally, management should encourage employees to strike a balance between work and home life. Rather than employees feeling guilty about using their personal time-off, taking a vacation, or calling in sick when needed, managers should implement policies and initiatives that encourage employees to use their PTO when needed.

Help employees understand that their tasks won’t pile up when they’re away by creating a work flowchart that demonstrates how the absent employee’s tasks will be distributed between others while they are out. When everyone knows what to expect during these times, remaining employees will feel less resentful and tasks won’t slip through the cracks.

Strive for consistency

Have you ever worked for a company where the priorities seemed to be constantly shifting or policies seem to be applied haphazardly? When employees don’t have a solid foundation, they can’t focus on the goals at hand. That frustration can lead to resentment and create a toxic workplace.

Constant rocking of the boat as a result of a priority shift, changes in the focus of the business, or workplace policies – can leave employees feeling like they’re on a slowly sinking ship. Instead of leaving employees out in the dark, work with mid-level managers and employees to develop goals and conduct strategic planning for each department.

Giving employees direction about the company’s mission and a voice in how to achieve it can help them feel more connected to the overall business goals and make them more willing to look for ways to help it grow rather than getting bogged down in what’s not working. This thoughtful planning and collaboration should lead to fewer shifts in priorities and strategies – allowing employees to focus on doing their jobs.

Do away with favoritism

Employees are quick to notice when an individual in the workplace is being treated differently than the others. Favoritism and nepotism are consistently among the top problems cited by employees who report toxic workplaces. Doing away with unfair practices is essential to combatting that toxicity.

Encourage managers to avoid developing personal relationships, friendly or romantic, with employees. Train managers on the dangers of favoritism in the workplace and make sure that they know the potential liabilities your company faces if policies aren’t applied fairly to all. If employees or other managers report that favoritism seems to be an issue, even after addressing it through training and verbal reprimands, consider shifting the employee or manager involved in the situation to other departments. While the concept of fairness may be subjective, its detrimental impact on your workplace certainly is not.

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