How Leaders Can Fix a Toxic Workplace
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    How Leaders (and Managers) Can Fix a Toxic Workplace

    by Sara J. Baker, Ed.D.

    Do you want to keep your team members happy? This may seem like a no-brainer, but many companies are struggling with employee retention rates. Why is this happening? Toxic work environments have become the norm in workplaces across America. The challenges and stress caused by the pandemic have simply exacerbated pre-existing negativity in the workplace and people have decided they aren’t putting up with it anymore.

    People are leaving companies in droves because of toxic workplace conditions. You may not be able to eliminate every shred of toxicity in your workplace, but you can keep people happy and doing their job by focusing on the type of environment you create for your team.

    If you are a leader, with a little effort you can create a collaborative and enjoyable atmosphere where laughter and camaraderie are the norm. It may not be perfect, but chances are that if you are the leader of a team, then you may have the ability to create an oasis of positivity even in the midst of a larger toxic workplace.

    Can you change a toxic workplace?

    The answer to this question is a resounding yes. You can change the atmosphere of your workplace by setting the tone for your team. You may not be able to change every negative component in your workplace, but you can drastically change how the members of YOUR team experience your workplace.

    The basics of changing a toxic workplace begin with creating a respectful work environment where people actually enjoy themselves. Leaders must focus on creating an atmosphere that is productive, positive and collaborative.

    This can be done by setting the example yourself and emphasizing the importance of a good work/life balance. Leaders need to foster values such as respect, communication, accountability and trust.

    When team members feel valued and respected they are more likely to give their best effort. Feeling that they are a part of something important drives them to work harder and become better at their jobs.

    If you want your team members to be happy, valued and respected then you need to create an environment where this is possible. This means creating a space for collaboration, communication and trust in the workplace. Do not allow toxic behavior or pettiness to take over.

    It is up to you as a leader to make your workplace a place where people want to be, not a place they feel they have to tolerate.

    A story of a toxic workplace

    There once was a leader who worked in a toxic workplace. His team members were always angry and frustrated, and no one ever seemed to be happy.

    The leader knew that this type of environment was causing people to leave, but he didn’t know how to fix it. One day, the leader enrolled in a course about how to create a positive work environment. He decided to follow the ideas he was exposed to and see if it would help.

    The leader started by creating a space for people to communicate and share their ideas. He also made sure that everyone felt heard. He encouraged laughter and camaraderie and made sure that people felt like they were part of a team.

    The team members started to feel happier, and they began to enjoy their time at work. After a while, people started to stay in the company longer and they were more productive when they worked on projects together.

    The team also began working better with other teams because of the positive atmosphere that was created by this leader’s actions. Interestingly enough, the leader began to enjoy his time at work much more as well.

    While it seems like common sense to keep your employees happy, it can be difficult to do in a toxic workplace. If you are looking to create an atmosphere where people feel like they can thrive and be successful, then it is time for a change!

    A little effort goes a long way when creating the type of environment that your team wants and needs.

    The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly.

    Jim Rohn

    What is a toxic work environment and how can you identify one?

    A toxic work environment is one where employees are mistreated, belittled, and feel generally unhappy. It can be difficult to identify a toxic work environment because the signs can be very subtle. One way to tell if your workplace is toxic is to ask yourself how you feel when you come into work each day.

    – Do you dread going in?

    – Do you feel like you are in a prison every day?

    – Do you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your boss or co-workers?

    – Do people gossip about each other or share confidential information?

    – Does your workplace feel hostile or competitive?

    – Are people constantly stressed out or seem to be in a bad mood?

    – Do you feel like you never receive any recognition for great work?

    – Do people on your team engage in good teamwork practices at the office?

    If the answer is yes, your workplace probably has some toxicity in it.

    If you are the boss, take a few minutes to reflect on how you manage your team and ask yourself if the way you are managing team members makes them miserable enough to quit. Don’t give up, yet though, there are actions you can take to stop the toxicity in your workplace and help your team become happier and more engaged.

    The effects of a toxic work environment on employees

    There are many negative effects that come from working for an employer who leads by fear or intimidation instead of empowerment and collaboration. Employees do not want to go to work and they feel unappreciated. They may also feel that their work is not important or valuable to the company. This can lead to employees feeling unmotivated and even hopeless.

    Negativity spreads through a workplace, so take the time to figure out why your workplace seems toxic and engage in intentional actions to turn it around.

    When people feel like they are not contributing to a company and their work is not valued, it can be very difficult for them to focus on the tasks at hand. They may start cutting corners or trying to finish projects as quickly as possible so that they can leave.

    This type of behavior will drive productivity down tremendously because employees who do not feel valued will not put their best effort into their work.

    The cost of a toxic work environment goes beyond just the loss of good employees.

    It can also lead to increased stress for those who stay, which can cause health problems down the road. It can also lead to decreased morale which will cause the employees who stay to be less productive.

    It is clear that a toxic workplace is not good for employees or the company. The best way to avoid these negative consequences is to focus on creating a positive workplace atmosphere.

    How leaders create a toxic work environment

    Unchecked, managers and bosses can turn an office into one that is bad for business because of their behavior toward team members. When people feel like they are being treated unfairly or disrespected by their manager, it can cause them to feel discouraged and unappreciated.

    This will lead to employees feeling unhappy with their jobs overall, which can cause turnover rates to go up because people are looking for other jobs outside of the company.

    Leaders who are not good at managing their team can also create a hostile work environment. When leaders pit employees against each other or make them compete for limited resources, it can cause tension and stress in the office.

    This type of environment is bad for business because people will be less productive and more likely to leave.

    Managers who micromanage their employees can also create a toxic work environment. When employees feel like they are being watched or monitored constantly, it can cause them to feel stressed and uncomfortable.

    This will lead to decreased productivity and may even push people out the door. Leaders also contribute to toxicity by allowing unchecked toxic employees to run rampant without addressing their negative behaviors.

    It’s also possible that the toxic environment is created by the leaders at the top of the organization and the team leaders and managers are just passing down what they are being handed. If this is the case, team leaders likely still have the capacity to be intentional about their behaviors and actions so that they can minimize the negative effects on their team and create a more positive work environment.

    For ideas on how leaders can defuse team members who routinely verbally offend others, check out this post.

    Why do leaders create toxic workplaces?

    Managers who create this type of work atmosphere often do not realize that they are the source of the toxicity. They may feel that their way of managing is the only way or the best way. Some signs that you are a manager who creates a toxic work environment include:

    – micromanaging team members instead of trusting them to do their job

    – not listening to employees and disregarding their ideas

    – humiliating or embarrassing team members in front of others

    – yelling or using intimidation tactics to get employees to do what you want

    – refusing to give employees credit for their work

    If you are guilty of any of these behaviors, it is time for a change. You need to start focusing on creating a positive work environment if you want your team to be productive and happy. For a complete checklist of toxic workplace signs, check out our post 18 Signs of a Toxic Workplace.

    How can leaders start battling an entrenched toxic workplace?

    If you are in a position of authority, it is important that you take the time to assess the situation and see where the toxicity may be coming from. It is important that you create an environment where people feel respected.

    This means listening to your employees, considering their input, and valuing their work. You should also try to be more open to new ideas, especially if they come from your employees.

    Build protected time into your schedule so you can listen to your employees and understand how things are going with their jobs.

    Having an open, collaborative culture where people are happy to come to work each day has many benefits for both employers and team members. People will feel more engaged at their jobs because they see the impact that their hard work makes on the company’s success.

    There are some easy ways you can start creating a more enjoyable workplace:

    – Meet with employees one on one at least once every two weeks. Ask them how they are doing and what they like or don’t like about their job.

    – Encourage employees to take breaks throughout the day. This will help them stay focused and productive.

    – Celebrate successes together! When your team achieves a goal, have a party or send out a company-wide email thanking everyone for their hard work.

    – Make sure your team has a good mix of challenging and rewarding tasks. Nobody wants to feel like they are stuck in a rut.

    – Let your employees know that you appreciate them! A simple “thank you” can go a long way.

    You can keep employees happy by establishing a sense of community at the workplace. When people enjoy their coworkers and feel connected to them, they will be far less likely to leave for greener pastures elsewhere.

    Tips for leaders to help them develop a positive work environment

    Leaders play an important role in the development of a positive work environment. If you are leading the team it is important that people feel valued and respected in order for this type of culture to thrive. You should listen when other people have an idea or input on how something can be done better.

    If you are a leader, it is important that you take the time to assess the way you manage your team. Are your tactics driving employees away? If so, it is time for a change. There are many things that you can do to help make your workplace less toxic. Here are some more quick tips to make sure you are doing your part in creating harmony at the office:

    – Stop yelling! Yelling is not an effective way to get people on your side or motivate them through tough times.

    – Be patient with employees, even when they mess up or do something wrong. Nobody’s perfect.

    – Treat your employees like humans, not subordinates who need to be micromanaged.

    – Offer employees flexibility when it comes to schedules

    – Give your team members a voice and encourage them to speak up about problems they see in the company

    – Create an environment where people feel like their ideas are valued and taken seriously, even if you do not agree with them

    Some of these changes might be difficult to make, but it is important that you start somewhere. Leaders must take the time to focus on creating a positive work environment if they want their team members to be productive and happy. By following these tips, you can help turn your toxic workplace around and create a more enjoyable atmosphere for everyone.

    The benefits of having a positive work environment for employees and employers alike

    There are many advantages to creating an enjoyable workplace where people feel appreciated and valued as individuals rather than disposable cogs in the machine. A more collaborative atmosphere will result in employees who feel more fulfilled and do better work.

    Employees will stick around longer, which means less time and money spent on recruiting and training new hires. It also results in a happier environment for customers!

    A positive workplace is good for your employees but it has benefits for you as well:

    – Higher productivity

    – Increased morale

    – More time to focus on the important things

    – Happier customers!

    Get rid of the toxicity

    Put in the effort to create a positive work environment and both you and your team will benefit!

    Creating a positive work environment is not only good for your employees, but it has benefits for you as well. An enjoyable workplace results in employees who are more productive, have increased morale, and are able to focus on the important things.

    A happy customer is the end goal of any business, and a positive work environment is one step towards achieving this. Leaders play an important role in creating a collaborative atmosphere where people feel valued.

    If you can start implementing some of these tips into your own workplace, you will be well on your way to creating a harmonious and successful team.

    If you’re looking for more help in creating a positive work environment, our leadership course can give you the tools and resources you need. Our experts will guide you through everything from developing team goals to handling difficult conversations. Enroll today and start making your workplace a happier place for everyone!

    Dr. Sara Baker, Founder of the Leadership Reformation

    About the Author

    Dr. Sara Baker is an advocate for positive leadership and healthy workplaces. With over 20 years of experience leading private and public organizations, she understands the challenges that employees and leaders face every day.

    Sara is the author of Toxic Workplace Survival Guide, an essential resource for anyone who wants to thrive in spite of a toxic work environment. In addition to her writing, Sara provides online courses for leadership development and coping with a toxic workplace.

    Dr. Sara Baker, Founder of the Leadership Reformation

    About the Author

    Dr. Sara Baker is an advocate for positive leadership and healthy workplaces. With over 20 years of experience leading private and public organizations, she understands the challenges that employees and leaders face every day.

    Sara is the author of Toxic Workplace Survival Guide, an essential resource for anyone who wants to thrive in spite of a toxic work environment. In addition to her writing, Sara provides online courses for leadership development and coping with a toxic workplace.

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