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In some cases, employees may find themselves trapped within a negative working environment.

When a business allows workplace toxicity to fester, everyone suffers. Communication breaks down, with engagement and performance soon following… In the end, the entire business loses out on productivity, output, and revenue.

Let’s take a look at workplace toxicity, the signs and characteristics, and how to avoid being a toxic manager.

What is a toxic environment in the workplace?

A toxic workplace is an atmosphere which is ridden with negative attitudes and unhealthy traditions.

These sorts of mindsets can come from employees or the managers themselves. They thrive through bad workplace practices, policies, and ethics.

When you allow toxicity, it affects the workforce, customers, and the company on a whole.

Spotting the signs of workplace toxicity from managers

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where workplace toxicity roots from. But a majority of the time, it thrives from human interaction and perception.  

Here are ways to spot the signs of workplace toxicity from managers:

  • Attend and leave work at inappropriate times.
  • Lack of empathy or emotional intelligence.
  • Micromanage those that don’t need it.
  • Have poor communication skills.
  • Show favouritism.
  • Display narcissistic tendencies.
  • Are blind to their own toxic behaviour.

What are the consequences of toxic work cultures?

If a workplace allows toxicity, it affects the entire business on a whole. From negative behaviour to bad practices–the origins of such conduct need to be uprooted before they affect all areas.

Employees will bear the brunt of most of the impacts. They could suffer damages to their mental health and wellbeing. Some may choose to leave their position for good. Others may decide to raise their grievance claim to employment tribunals.

The consequences of toxic work cultures lead to:

  • Increasing employee turnover.
  • Lowering engagement and morale.
  • Presenting poor customer service.
  • Causing reputational damages.
  • Decreasing productivity and revenue.

UK laws on toxicity in the workplace

Under UK employment legislation, workplace toxicity is not considered unlawful. However, there are certain legislations which relate to such matters.

All employers have a legal and moral duty to promote a healthy workplace environment. From their first day, to their last–employees must feel safe and comfortable whilst working for your business.

Under the Equality Act 2010, all employees are protected from discrimination, harassment, and victimisation. You cannot treat any person or group unfairly based on nine protected characteristics:

  • Age.
  • Disability.
  • Gender reassignment.
  • Marriage and civil partnership.
  • Pregnancy and maternity.
  • Race.
  • Religious beliefs.
  • Sex.
  • Sexual orientation.

If toxic behaviours or attitudes affect any of these protected rights, an employee may raise a grievance claim to employment tribunals. Here, if toxic conduct has led to unfair or unlawful treatment, you could be held liable.

The consequences of such an outcome can range from paying compensation fees to facing reputational damages. The last thing you want is to be taken to an employment tribunal for something entirely of your own doing.

How to avoid being a toxic manager

As a business or manager, the idea of eliminating bad work ethics or pessimistic attitudes might be complicated. 

You might think, ‘how on earth do you govern bad behaviour if everyone does it?’ Remember, these things take time, effort, and perseverance–change doesn’t happen overnight. 

Here are some practical ways to avoid being a toxic manager:

Highlight bad behaviours straightaway

Quite often, you might find it hard to establish the root of a toxic issue. But when you do, highlight the bad behaviour straightaway.

It’s so important to implement your conduct rules and prepare your workforce for positive change. Make everyone aware of what type of behaviour or practice is unacceptable. And this goes for both employees and managers.

In time, these changes will become acknowledged and respected by all. And this will soon wean out inappropriate conduct.

Have open discussions with concerned employees

When an attitude or practice is ‘normalised’ within a workplace, it’s hard to speak out against it.

Employees might feel it only affects them, so it’s not worth raising an issue. Or they might be scared to speak up about it because of potential impacts to their career.

To tackle this, have open discussions with any employee going through problems. Identify the problem and collectively work on how to make the situation better for all parties.

You can offer anonymous surveys so employees can confidentially share their concerns. Or implement mediation between workers so mutual resolutions are reached.

Create a culture of progression

It’s so important to acknowledge that employees will look up to their peers in their everyday work life. But this isn’t in awe or aspiration. Sometimes, they will inherit good habits, and some not so good ones.

So, aim to lead by example and create a culture of progression. That way, employees will become determined and focused on building their skillset and abilities.

When you see employees invest in themselves this way, you can benefit too. Higher motivation and talent mean you end up with increased business production, income, and functionality.

Remember, a happy workforce leads to a healthy bottom-line.

The article was written by Paul Holcroft, Managing Director at Croner

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