Sweet Or Sour? How To Tell When Your Workplace Turns Toxic (And What You Can Do To Fix It)


Toxic work cultures bring nothing to a business beyond harm and additional strains on already stressed internal workings. Without a plan for building and maintaining mentally healthy cultures, it’s too easy to default to behaviours and habits that contribute to a toxic workplace.

Cited as a primary reason for employees resigning, how do you recognise when your workplace is starting to sour and avoid losing valuable employees? You may see:

  • Cliques start to form, providing an environment of ‘us’ versus ‘them’
  • ‘Blame first, solution later’ is a common interaction and response from management when mistakes are made
  • People are cc’ed into emails as a power move or to cover their back so that communication isn’t based on hearsay
  • Fear is used to motivate employees to action
  • “If it can’t be measured, it isn’t important” – personal goals, learning outcomes or even small wins are not considered relevant to performance and output.
  • “I’ll need to escalate” is a frequent sentiment that doesn’t lead anywhere.
  • High anxiety and exhaustion levels are prevalent amongst employees.
  • Your physical and mental health declines due to your workplace environment and interactions.

Leaders who accept responsibility for faults and issues like these can help, while employees who build positive relationships feel less alone in dealing with challenges.

  • Organisations should strive for cultures that enhance the mental health of their staff.
  • Organisations should strive for cultures that support teams to be fit for purpose.

Building these cultures requires energy and effort where all staff play their part in contributing to a mentally healthy workplace.

This may include:

  • Communicating more meaningfully, such as instructing employees on what they are required to do and in the appropriate place (ie. talk about scheduling in the place where scheduling is done.
  • Knowing your business’s core values and living by them. Ensure they are more than lip service by providing employees with a plan and action to back them up.
  • Dealing with employee absenteeism. Toxic workplaces feed absenteeism, which feeds burnout on the employees who have to pick up the slack, which feeds the toxic workplace, which…feeds absenteeism. Break the cycle by staying observant and providing employees with a plan of action.
  • Trying to minimise (if not eliminate) employee turnover by examining the common factors leading to resignations and engaging directly with them to work on improving those existing conditions.

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