Tell-tale signs of a toxic work environment

Be aware of the work culture you’re creating so as to ensure you aren’t pushing good employees away.
By Priya Prakasan

As a leader you need to keep your finger on the pulse of the company to ensure you’re creating the best environment for people to thrive and do their best work. Are any of the signs mentioned below evident in your workplace? If yes, you need to take a good hard look at your leadership style and get rid of the toxicity in your office.

1. Fear-based work culture
A lot of leaders rely on fear, as it is seems like the most convenient tool for managing people. It’s not always obvious or identifiable, but often used in the most subtle way as a control mechanism. However, such a strategy will increase negativity, erode trust, and reduce motivation, innovation or collaboration. Employees will grab the first chance to leave a fear-inducing leader. Fear is the ultimate work culture killer, so fix it before it’s too late.

2. Unmotivated workforce
Lack of feedback, encouragement, respect, and other the indicators of value can make employees believe they’re just cogs in a wheel. It will demotivate and weaken their inclination to offer their inputs, ideas, and creativity. Instead, treat them as valued colleagues and worthy business partners who are helping create excellence.

3. Focus is on numbers, not people
Yes, numbers are key in managing any business as they come handy when measuring revenue, profit, expenses, etc. But it’s when you use them as the main tool to judge people that things get difficult. The single-minded focus on measuring results often leads to fear, fear of being punish for infractions, fear of stepping outside the prescribed path, fear of losing their jobs, etc. This fear-based atmosphere can be quite toxic. So avoid using numbers as the main performance marker when conducting evaluations. Rather make numbers one of the criteria. Remember to focus on the people who work with you, invest in their growth and development. Start leadership coaching activities for your managers. After all, the company is only as good as its employees.

4. Withholding information
Hoarding and withholding information from your employees increases the chances of toxicity, as it is one of the most effective ways to kill trust. The big reason a leader hoards information is to display his/her control and power. While the reality is that organisational transparency and sharing of information can benefit the entire team, drive productivity, and increase the chances of success.

5. Employees are afraid to tell you the truth
This one’s another result of a fear-based environment. Employees are reluctant to voice the truth because they fear the consequences or blowback. They’ve witnessed hostile behaviour when employees have provided suggestions or inputs in the past and wish to be safe from that. They know the management doesn’t want to hear it, so why create more trouble for themselves?

6. Too many rules and guidelines
Too many rules in the workplace also become a productivity killer. They’re built in to help an organisation run efficiently, but too many of them can make employees feel they aren’t trusted. It sends a message that the organisation prefers to dictate what needs to be done, as it doesn’t trust its employees to do the right thing. A dictatorial regime is never a good thing, curbing creativity and innovation. Employees are also more likely to worry about following the rules and avoiding any backlash, rather than doing a good job.

Photograph: Katemangostar/ 

Categories:   Lifestyle, Work Buzz


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