Your employees are the lifeblood of your company and an important factor in its success. This is why it is important to create systems so that they can speak up freely, without feeling like their opinion has no value or that they will be reprimanded for it.
While a toxic work environment can be difficult to identify, becoming familiar with the warning signs can better prepare leaders to identify potential problems, and prepare them to take steps necessary to improve the company's culture.
What is a toxic work environment and what are its effects on employees?
A toxic work environment is a work environment where employees feel like they can't speak up for themselves or there isn't enough space for creativity and novelty. Toxic work environments create high stress and negativity creating low morale and high turnover. This impacts employees so much that they tend to mimic this environment in their personal lives. When employees take this kind of morale home, it tends to impact the world around them.
When a company has a toxic work environment, it's better to identify it early, before it becomes too overwhelming.
How to avoid creating a toxic work environment
The first step in avoiding a toxic work environment is to be aware of what a rewarding, safe environment it looks like. This includes not only fostering an atmosphere where people can speak up and have constructive criticism, but also ensuring there is space for creativity and novelty. If you're the manager or owner of your company, here are some things you can do to ensure that employees feel comfortable:
Listen more than you talk. Even if you disagree with someone's opinion, simply listen before responding. Make sure they know that their thoughts aren't being ignored or dismissed. You'll find this encourages others in the organization to share their opinions as well.
Offer constructive criticism. If someone has done something wrong, don't make them feel bad about themselves by yelling at them or criticizing them in front of everyone. Instead, tell them what they did wrong and help them identify how to fix it.
Be aware of power dynamics. It's important to pay attention to the dynamics between employees and management. For example, if an employee is your friend, you may feel inclined to take their side when they're in the wrong or don't meet expectations. Instead of making assumptions about other people's intentions, make sure you give everyone a fair shot so that no one gets special treatment based on who they are.
Encourage creativity. A healthy work environment encourages creativity. Encourage your employees to think outside the box and try new things, and consider letting them take risks in their daily work. If they fail, let them know that you believe in them so they will continue to take risks and grow.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. As a manager or owner of your company, you may feel the pressure to have all the answers. Accept the fact that there is a whole world out there of knowledge and experience. If you want to create a healthy workplace environment, make sure you take advantage of the advice and expertise of other people in your industry who can give you perspective on how to do your job better, and create a more rewarding work environment.
Create an open space. Don't keep people from talking to each other because you're worried it will interrupt your workflow. Instead, make sure that you have enough room for employees to work on their own projects and get together with coworkers when they need help or want feedback.
If you follow these six tips, you'll be miles ahead of your competition and will move closer to creating a workplace experience where employees feel valued, respected, appreciated, and heard. Let’s get to work, and positively impact the lives of others!