Even if you’re one of the lucky ones that have always been in a workplace or position that promoted the welfare of not only the company but also the employees then great! The other 70% of us have had at least one job that wasn’t quite as healthy as it should have been.
First let’s define what exactly a “toxic work environment” is, and what the warning signs are that you’re in or creating one. A toxic work environment is a workplace in which unethical behavior, such as manipulation, bullying, passive aggressiveness, deceit, and/or intimidation, etc., is normalized.
So what’s the big deal? It’s just a job, right? 60 hours a week are spent getting ready, driving to and from work, and working. 40 hours should be spent sleeping. That leaves 68 hours left to handle other responsibilities and to find a little free time. It’s impossible for something that takes up such a large portion of your time to not impact the rest of your life. Personal effects of an unhealthy workplace can include excessive stress, fatigue, anxiety, and burnout. As a result of the stress, people in toxic work environments often struggle with personal relationships and with mental health. So why does this matter to employers? Fatigued, stressed, and burned out employees lead to poor customer service, low efficiency, high turnover rates and a myriad of other small business killers.
So what can be done to ensure that we are creating and promoting a healthy place of business for our coworkers and employees? Here are a few tips to set you on the right path to a healthy and positive work environment.
- Set clear company policies that discourage bullying, harassment, and other unethical workplace practices. If you are up front with your expectations then you will have more ground to stand on when having to deal with toxicity, instead of simply debating in the moment.
- Create avenues for clear communication and conflict resolution rather than discourage conflict. Conflict isn’t inherently bad and a lack thereof doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is running smoothly. In fact open, yet moderated conflict can actually lead to progress and stronger relationships.
- Promote and incentivise ethical behavior such as teamwork, integrity, accountability, honesty and hard work. Incentives are not only useful for increasing productivity. They can also higher morale, promote a healthy amount of competition, as well as motivate individuals to exhibit superior behavior. While rewards shouldn’t be expected, being recognized for a job well done can foster a positive work environment.
- Treat everyone the way you want to be treated. The golden rule will never be outdated or cease to be the best rule of thumb to uphold in all conflicts, transactions, situations, and relationships.
- Listen to constructive criticism without becoming defensive. Be ready to listen to concerns and suggestions that can help eliminate unhealthy practices and blind spots to those practices.
As we discussed earlier, a toxic workplace affects not only the company itself, but the lives of the individuals who are a part of it. It is okay to remove yourself from a toxic situation, especially if the problem has been brought to light and has been ignored. Remember the tips above to ensure that you are part of promoting a healthy work environment and your career and personal life will reap the benefits!