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Preventing Toxic Culture

25% of employees left their job due to toxic culture in 2022.

A workplace culture is “typically considered toxic when trust, psychological safety, and employee morale degrade to unhealthy levels.”

Toxic cultures are extremely dangerous for both companies and employees. Symptoms rapidly spread through a workforce if not managed. They have an impact on productivity, mental health, and employee engagement.

Here are some examples of a toxic culture:

  • Overworked employees
  • Chronic stress
  • Workplace bullying

In the majority of these situations, the issue stems from a lack of trust and communication among those in the workplace hierarchy.

Effect of Toxic Culture

Staff turnover is typically very high in toxic environments as a result of this feeling of separation between employees and their leaders.

Those who feel ignored, mistreated, or exploited by their leaders often prefer to leave a company rather than file a complaint. They lack confidence that their problems will be solved.

Toxic cultures can have a huge negative effect on a company's performance. "Poor company culture" costs UK businesses a staggering £20.2 billion every single year.

How Does it Develop?

Sadly, there are numerous ways for a toxic culture to emerge at work. While the root cause of the issue may change between each situation, generally speaking, a lack of communication exacerbates and hides the issues.

Negative or even abusive behaviour is permitted to continue when organisations don't take the time to collect employee feedback. It can spread rapidly throughout a company.

Companies should be sending out anonymous employee engagement surveys to mitigate this. Surveys can reveal early warning signals and red flags of emerging issues. 

Organisations can jump in early when faced with concerning feedback or low engagement scores, reducing the likelihood of later problems. 

When a toxic culture has already taken hold, there are some major warning signs to look out for:

  • Managers who speak condescendingly to their teams
  • A feeling of ‘profits/policies over people’ where employees feel exploited
  • Micromanagers 
  • Unsupportive performance appraisals
  • Discrimination or lack of diversity
  • Failure to recognise or reward employee achievements
  • Harassment

If you recognise any of the above signs in your workplace or business, it’s time to:

a.) leave (if you’re an employee)

b.) do something about it (if you’re an employer!)

Gathering Evidence:

Quantitative research on the culture of your firm can be useful for understanding what it's like to work there. Here are just a few suggestions for how to go about doing this:

1. Regular Engagement Surveys

Employee engagement surveys can provide a lot of quantifiable information, including eNPS scores and real-time feedback from current employees. 

Quarterly surveys allow you to regularly check in with your team whilst leaving enough time to action feedback and build trust in the process. Ten Space offers an innovative and anonymous method of surveying through Whatsapp, email and SMS, which delivers an engaging way to survey your team. 

2. Glassdoor Reviews

Glassdoor is a very helpful (and free) website where current and past employees can post honest reviews about their work experiences. While the findings of engagement surveys are most likely to be shared just within the company, Glassdoor provides a more public way of sharing feedback.

3. Turnover & Absenteeism

The average employee turnover rate in the UK is currently 15% a year. Absence and turnover rates among employees are telltale signs of a toxic workplace environment. Not all staff turnover is a terrible thing, but if your turnover rate is far higher than this, you may want to pay closer attention to your culture.

Preventing Toxic Culture

While there isn't a "perfect" way to shape your culture, there are a number of essential components you'll need to create a healthy working environment.

Listen to employees - Your staff may currently have the solutions to the majority, if not all, of your problems. Utilise the knowledge that employee engagement surveys may provide and, before a toxic culture emerges, focus on its underlying causes.

Great leadership - Toxic cultures often stem from miscommunication and bad leadership. It's essential to develop your managing teams' leadership abilities. This comes in many different forms, so knowing what makes a bad leader is key.

Develop trust - Operating transparently, doing what you say you are going to do and doing the right thing builds trust.  A lack of trust in an organisation can quickly slow it down and impact on performance.

Employees first - Always put your employees at the heart of your business. You wouldn't have a brand, clients or services to offer without them. Your culture will stay healthy and thriving if you put your people at the centre of every business choice you make.

We’re committed to creating healthier workplaces - delivering employee engagement surveys through innovative technology and great service. For more information on how our platform can help your business thrive, visit our website, or get in touch

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