Are You Creating A Toxic Work Environment? 7 Red Flags You Shouldn't Ignore

Are You Creating A Toxic Work Environment?
New Africa / Shutterstock
Summary: Is your workplace culture causing more harm than good? Below you'll learn the signs that indicate toxicity, as well as the true cost of this phenomenon.

The Warning Signs Of A Toxic Work Environment

Work environments vary in types and sizes: busy offices in large corporations, tiny desks in small businesses, or remote and quiet workspaces. They all have something in common, though: they need to be healthy. People spend so much of their day at work that, for some, it's like a second home. So, it's only fair that the environment of a workplace has a significant impact on employees' mental and physical health, as well as their productivity and performance. A supportive and healthy work environment encourages people to collaborate, communicate effectively, and thrive both personally and professionally. On the contrary, a toxic work environment harms the well-being and morale of employees, causing them stress and uncertainty. You may believe that you've created the perfect space for your people to work, but this may not be the case. Let's explore how you can tell if your workforce is having a hard time at work and what this means for your business.

eBook Release: The State Of Employee Experience 2023
eBook Release
The State Of Employee Experience 2023
Explore upcoming corporate culture trends and how employee experience can be improved via improving onboarding, training, and employee engagement.

What Shows That Your Workplace Is Harming Your Team?

1. High Turnover Rates

Employees come and go. It's part of the normal employment process at any company. What isn't normal, though, is if they tend to go at a faster rate than they come. A high turnover rate in your business is a strong sign of toxicity, so you should get to the bottom of it. When people leave your company constantly, you lose stability and lack expertise, leading to errors and poor-quality work. Not to mention that this process is costly. So, if you notice that you lose talent excessively, consider getting feedback from those who leave, asking them to state the reasons. Is your culture unsupportive? Are they in need of an increased salary? Or is the environment unbearable for them to work in? Knowing what makes your workforce abandon ship can affect how you approach the issue.

2. Decreased Employee Engagement

Do employees enter the workplace, do the bare minimum, and storm out as soon as their shift ends? In a toxic work environment, there's plenty of negativity around that makes the place insufferable. Whether it's unsupportive management, conflicts, or a heavy workload, toxicity will turn even your most eager employees powerless and unmotivated. So, if your staffers aren't excited about performing their tasks and aren't trying their best, you need to step up. Consult with HR and try transforming your company culture while implementing strategies to drive engagement and make your people a little happier to come to work every day.

3. Lack Of Transparency

Keeping secrets is a toxic practice in and of itself, but doing it at a company-wide level is exceptionally harmful. Your organization must be transparent with its employees and always practice open communication. In a toxic environment, employees aren't fully aware of their roles and responsibilities, thus feeling confused and never being able to meet their employer's expectations. They're not involved in decision-making either, which creates the impression that their opinions don't matter, which demotivates them. So, prioritizing open communication is critical to fostering trust and creating a more positive workplace. Regular meetings, open communication channels, and brainstorming sessions are some of the ideas you can incorporate to start detoxifying your company.

4. Ineffective Communication

You may have noticed that your teams don't collaborate effectively or aren't on good terms with each other. These issues are the result of ineffective communication, which is a telltale sign of toxicity in the workplace. When employees don't listen to each other and aren't clearly communicating with their peers, tension builds up. Criticism, rumors, gossip, and micromanagement practices replace collaboration, trust, and amicability. To navigate this negativity, use collaboration tools where people can work together on projects and see everyone's tasks and progress. Team-building activities and workshops can also go a long way toward bonding everyone and creating a more positive work environment.

5. Poor Leadership

Leaders are responsible for creating the company culture and setting an example of how everyone should work and collaborate in the company. Arrogant and indifferent leaders, however, can negatively affect the employees and the organization as a whole. Toxic leaders with negative attitudes and harmful behavior cause employees to lose interest in their positions and be less productive. Plus, this environment jeopardizes everyone's efforts, hurting innovation and creativity. You must stop tolerating favoritism, criticism, micromanagement, and abusive behavior from leaders. Instead, give leadership to people trained in effective management practices, which can transform the company culture.

6. Burnout

If your company encourages employees to take on more tasks than they can handle or work past their schedule, it contributes to a toxic work environment. As the workload piles up, the projects will be less qualitative, leading to more errors. Keeping up with fixing those errors and meeting deadlines will cause your workforce stress, which will cause employee burnout, affecting both their mental and physical health. Keep an eye out for exhausted employees who constantly feel sick and irritable, aren't productive enough, isolate themselves from social gatherings, and even neglect their health. This phenomenon is serious, and you need to act fast by promoting work-life balance and creating a support system that your employees can turn to in case they need help.

7. Absenteeism

Many people who work in a toxic environment dread the moment they step foot in the office or turn on their laptops from home. Some of them even think that since they don't want to be there, they won't. This is called absenteeism, and it involves employees missing work due to stress, sickness, or not being able to suffer another workday in a negative place. So, if you notice that more and more employees are taking a single day off or calling in sick, maybe it's the work environment that's causing it. It's important to know what's harming their physical and mental health. Encourage them to give anonymous feedback so you'll know what you need to fix. Is it stress, a conflict between colleagues, harassment, a heavy workload, or the absence of mental health resources? Ensure you address the issue quickly enough to save your workforce and your business's performance.

The Cost Of A Toxic Work Environment

Toxic work environments definitely take a toll on the mental and physical health of employees, but they also hurt the company's pockets. From the high turnover rates to the reputation damage, the financial impact is almost never-ending. But let's talk about facts. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the cost of turnover due to negative work cultures is close to $223 billion. A toxic culture costs companies a fortune, even when it comes to their employees' mental health. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) reports that stress in the workplace costs $300 billion in lost productivity. Not to mention that toxicity can lead to legal battles and fees due to incidents of harassment, discrimination, or wrongful termination. All these things damage a company's reputation, and your business may be left with negative reviews or even boycotts, which can be costly to repair.