Have you ever worked in a toxic work environment? I would describe it as an environment full of stress, destructive conflict, and negativity for those who have not. Unfortunately, I have worked in several.
Being the owner or leader of a business with such an environment creates a burden. Dealing with employees is the most taxing aspect of managing companies. In a toxic environment, you must deal with complaints, grievances, absenteeism, and disengaged employees. Consider the bottom-line impact of these dynamics on your business:
Culture studies have concluded that employees become disengaged in a toxic culture, which leads to damaging consequences, such as:
37% higher absenteeism
49% more accidents
60% more errors and defects
I venture to say that most leaders would avoid having or creating this type of environment. Yet, we find it quite common. In many cases, leaders are oblivious to the state of their business culture. Please read this blog to learn 5 Signs Your Culture Needs Attention. In other cases, leaders are aware but choose to ignore the topic, and in the worst of circumstances, leaders create this environment themselves with poor leadership. The reasons for this range from not knowing how to deal with culture to blatantly disregard for creating a healthy workplace for everyone.
Transforming a business culture can be a daunting task. This is a task that must be led by the senior leaders in the business. Otherwise, chances are the effort will fail. Changing people’s behaviors is one of the most challenging things to do.
Once leaders recognize the need for culture change, they must commit to this effort’s long process. Here are seven steps to completing a culture transformation:
- Assess the culture – This mainly applies to new leaders to the organization or the team they are leading. If that is not the case, leaders should be well acquainted with how the culture works. In the first 30 – 60 days, you should get an understanding of the makeup of your culture. Engage with your team and observe how they behave and interact with each other during meetings, breaks, day-to-day work interactions, etc. Look for these two dimensions: 1) How aligned is the culture with a healthy work environment that would be free of gossip, politics, and destructive conflict? 2) How united or fragmented is culture? Look deep to find these patterns within the entire team, shifts, departments, or any other grouping of people that could be a differentiation source.
- Identify and remove the misfits – One of the first tasks in turning around your culture is to remove the reasons for a toxic environment. This step involves staff changes, identify the employees who actively create and support creating the toxic environment. Look for leaders who display poor leadership behaviors, or staff members who actively resist any initiative to make positive changes or behave in a way that perpetuates the spread of negativity. We are not advocating for dismissal without due diligence. However, leaders must be firm and swift in identifying these individuals and either helping them modify their behavior or transitioning them to better-suited roles or even a better-suited organization.
These first two steps are in the very early stages of your cultural transformation efforts. This process requires patience and focus on being successful. As you navigate the depths of what makes your team’s fabric, you will begin to build momentum and continue to make positive changes. Next week we will discuss how to define your culture after the removal of the misfits. Stay tuned!
If you are dealing with a toxic culture, and you would like to discuss your specific situation please schedule a call.
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