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    Considering recent controversies involving public figures such as Jimmy Fallon and Lizzo, the topic of toxic workplaces is again in the spotlight. These environments can take a toll on employees' mental well-being, leading to physical fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and a decline in job satisfaction. The repercussions may even extend to more serious mental health challenges like anxiety and depression. This guide offers 18 effective and simple ways managers and business leaders can tackle and improve an unhealthy workplace. 

    Recognizing the Signs of a Toxic Workplace

    To effectively lead the change, managers and leaders need to recognize the signs of a toxic workplace. These signs can include:

    1. Lack of Support and Recognition: Employees feeling undervalued and unappreciated can lead to resentment and frustration.
    2. Micromanagement and Unrealistic Expectations: Constantly monitoring and setting unattainable goals can foster a toxic environment.
    3. Negative Feedback Dominance: When negative feedback outweighs positive reinforcement, it can erode self-esteem and morale.
    4. High Turnover Rates: Frequent departures may signal employee dissatisfaction.
    5. Lack of Transparency: Poor communication and secrecy can lead to mistrust and a sense of disconnection.
    6. Excessive Workload: Overloading employees without support can result in burnout and stress.
    7. Unhealthy Competition: Encouraging cutthroat competition can make the workplace hostile.
    8. Blurred Work-Life Boundaries: Failing to maintain a clear boundary between work and personal life can affect well-being.

    When looking for and addressing these issues, it’s important to closely examine some specifics beyond just flagging them. While recognizing and addressing the usual culprits like micromanagement and negative feedback is important, a deeper understanding of your employees’ sentiments can help leaders identify issues before they reach a critical point.


    Taking Action as Leaders: Strategies for Transformation


    As leaders, you have the power to affect change in your organization. According to Jack Altman’s book, People Strategy: How to Invest in People and Make Culture Your Competitive Advantage, three major pillars of workplace culture should be considered a priority:

    Purpose: It’s why we get out of bed every day and spend most of our waking hours doing what we do. People need to feel important, and they want to know that their role helps the world and has an impact. I found that Espyr employees are connected to Espyr’s purpose because it’s also linked to their purpose. As an HR Professional, you want to keep your ears and eyes open for that type of alignment during the recruiting stage.

    Community: This is where employees find trust, strong communication, respect, equality, and cooperation. Communities can make something bigger and better than any individual employee could create on their own. To work with like-minded people who are purpose-driven, brings teams, groups, and the entire company closer together.

    Growth: This can be growth at any level—individual or organizational growth. Fostering growth gives employees a sense of striving for something, from striving for improvement, new roles, and new solutions, there is always progress to be made.

    Drawing insights from these three pillars, here are 18 effective ways that managers and leaders can do today to start changing the climate in their environment:

    1. Create a Purpose Statement: Identify why you exist and why you should continue to exist and weave it into the fabric of your company.
    2. Core Values: Establish values that will form the bedrock of your organization.
    3. Talk About Inspirational Aspects: Share stories. Stories are more relatable, and employees use these stories as fuel.
    4. Bring Employees Close Together: Through a shared purpose and identity, strong relationships are formed, and a sense of belonging grows, empowering employees increase performance.
    5. Build A Personalized Plan: It’s critical for employees and managers to work together to build a career development plan so each one has a clear picture of the path forward.
    6. Lead by Example: if your company values work-life balance, then indeed allow yourself and others to not worry about work during PTO, Holidays, and other work time off periods.
    7. Celebrate Cultural Diversity: Recognize and promote diversity and inclusion so employees feel confident to contribute.
    8. Transparent Communication: Foster transparent communication channels to build trust.
    9. Develop an Effective Feedback System: Establish a feedback loop where employees receive constructive feedback on their performance and have opportunities for improvement.
    10. Well-Being Benefits: There are so many benefits to implement. Figure out the best ones for your organization and offer them to your employees.
    11. Regular Coffee or Lunch Check-Ins: Sometimes meeting with your team members on a personal and informal level or outside of the office builds a deeper connection.
    12. Flexibility: Offer flexible work arrangements to reduce burnout.
    13. Promote Well-Being Practices: Educate employees on well-being practices such as mindfulness and resilience-building.
    14. Recognize and Reward Good Work: Celebrate milestones, wins, and reward positive contributions.
    15. Peer Support Networks: Encourage employees to form support networks and share experiences.
    16. Accountability: Hold individuals accountable for their attitude.
    17. Healthy Competition: Encourage competition that fosters growth rather than hostility.
    18. Ongoing Assessment: Continuously assess the workplace environment and adjust strategies accordingly.

    The Ripple Effect: Benefits Beyond Individuals

    Prioritizing employee well-being is a crucial aspect that has a far-reaching impact on an organization's overall performance. By creating a culture that fosters employee well-being, organizations can reduce turnover rates, improve morale, and enhance productivity. When employees feel valued and supported, they become more engaged and productive, which not only benefits the organization but also the employees themselves.

    Well-being-focused transformations go beyond the workplace and have a positive impact on employees' personal lives. By investing in employee well-being, organizations can improve employees' mental health and overall quality of life, resulting in a happier and more satisfied workforce. Improved well-being also leads to reduced absenteeism, improved decision-making, and better job satisfaction, which can significantly impact the overall success of an organization.

    Learn from Success Stories

    Successful organizations have effectively tackled workplace toxicity. For example, the Indiana State Personnel Department revamped its onboarding process, resulting in reduced turnover rates and improved morale. Matthew Brown, the department’s director, emphasized the importance of creating a welcoming and supportive environment for new hires.

    Empowering Change for a Healthier Workplace

    As managers and business leaders, you hold the prioritization of a good people strategy. By recognizing your people as your number one asset, implementing purposeful strategies, and learning from successful examples, you can pave the way for a happier, healthier, and more productive workforce. Prioritizing employee well-being is not just good for individuals; it's good for the entire organization, leading us toward a future where the employee takes center stage in the workplace.


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