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Updated 29 Feb 2020


4 Ways to diffuse a toxic workplace

Avoid this unfavourable environment by ensuring policies and rules are the same for everyone, and encourage working together on various projects.


Andre Lavoie, Entrepreneur, 26 November 2014  Share  0 comments  Print


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Despite the size of your organisation, what department you work in or who you report to, if you are a manager it is up to you to ensure that people are comfortable under your company’s roof. Still, some people walk into work every day stressed and uneasy.

Toxic workplaces, or unhealthy environments that regularly upset employees, are an obvious detriment to a company’s success and can result from a number of things. These include poor recognition, overworked employees and misaligned expectations.

However, with good workplace leadership and an openness to change, the toxic environment can be easily diffused and eliminated. Here are some ways leadership can diffuse a toxic workplace:

1. Recognise employees for their accomplishments

Employees who feel they are overlooked on a regular basis for their great work are bound to contribute to a toxic workplace. Employees expect to be recognized when they excel, and rightfully so.

According to a 2012 survey by SHRM and Globoforce, 85 percent of companies see a positive impact on engagement when they spend one percent or more of payroll on recognition.

To ensure everyone is recognized, set up a good performance-management system in which workplace leadership and employees can see updates on plans, goals and objectives for projects they are working on. This way, everyone can see what’s happening and it’s very obvious when employees deserve to be rewarded for a win.

This is also a great way for leaders to identify issues in real time and address them immediately to get the team back on track and stay toxicity-free.

2. Align work performance expectations between management and employees

Employees should not walk into their performance reviews with heads held high, only to walk out defeated. It happens frequently, however.

If an employee has no reason to think their performance has been anything less than stellar, they can’t take corrective action to improve. Sitting down with workplace leadership and coming to the realisation that expectations weren’t aligned can lead to disengagement, negativity and the feeling that one’s time was wasted.

Providing open leadership and transparent feedback in which employees are always told how they did on a certain project, or where they need to build their competencies, will eliminate any uncertainty.

Define, track and celebrate goals for each employee based on short- and long-term performance. This will help them understand how to improve their performance and have a clear vision of what’s expected of them, ultimately improving the bottom line.

3. Take a proactive approach to avoid overworked employees

When workers are overtasked, yet expectations remain the same, it is difficult to maintain a positive work environment. This can be combated, or even avoided, by approaching hiring in a more proactive way.

Forecasting talent requirements for the organisation well in advance of actually needing the talent enables those in charge of hiring the chance to plan accordingly. To do this, consider different variables that will affect the future need for talent, including expansion, new products or an upswing in the industry.

It’s also important to consider variables within the hiring pool, such as number of new graduates each year or specificity of the roles that will be needed and the talent available.

4. Deter unhealthy cliques and favouritism within the company

It is completely natural within a workplace for individuals to become close with the colleagues with whom they work most closely. However, when it appears certain groups are favored by workplace leadership, this will turn the workplace toxic.

Consider regular happy hours that are hosted by different teams throughout the company. This will allow all employees to get to know each team on a more informal level and is especially useful if certain teams aren’t able to mingle with the rest of the organization as regularly as they’d like.

If it isn’t possible to mix groups for client projects, create projects internally that can benefit the company or mix up groups at company events.

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About the author


Andre Lavoie, Entrepreneur


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