Is your workplace toxic?
Is morale low at the office? Are you having trouble with productivity in the workplace? If so, that’s a big problem for your company, and you might start losing talent—soon. Retaining top talent is key for growth—not only for the innovation and high-quality work good employees offer but for the cost-saving benefits of long-term employment. Studies vary widely on the actual dollar amount it costs to replace an employee since the loss is often in time and productivity. Regardless of whether it costs $3000 to replace an employee or $300,000, it’s still a risk and expense to find the right candidate, convince them to get on board and get them up to speed in the role.
So. How can you keep turnover low?
Preventing a toxic environment in the office is one great way to boost employee retention, productivity, and happiness. The catch? You can only prevent and improve a toxic workplace if you can spot the signs before the issue spins out of control. Here are five signs your workplace is toxic.
Gossip is Running Rampant
All offices have people who get a kick out of gossip, and it’s impossible to keep all gossip out of the workplace. However, there’s a difference between normal (and even healthy!) gossip and toxic gossip that runs rampant, causing distrust and negativity. If you’re hearing negative rumors on a regular basis, it’s time to get to the bottom of what’s really causing the problem.
The Fix: Talk to your employees individually and as a team about the gossip going around the office. Approach it without judgement or anger, and focus on fixing the root of the problem, rather than cracking down hard on the gossip itself.
Communication is Poor and Inconsistent
Communication is one of the most important factors in a company’s morale and productivity. Inconsistent communication can make employees doubt themselves and reduce their confidence or satisfaction in their work, while lack of communication can indicate trust issues from leadership. If employees are receiving only negative communication or no communication at all, it’s easy for them to lose focus and investment in the organization’s goals.
The Fix: Positive, transparent communication isn’t easy to achieve, but it’s one of the hallmarks of good leadership. Managers should ensure that employees feel safe discussing their concerns and asking questions, and it should be standard practice to share organizational information with everyone in the company.
Employees are Unhappy and Even Ill
Have you been noticing more sick days cashed in lately? A toxic environment isn’t just a figurative statement, a toxic workplace can literally make your employees sick. If your team is dreading coming into the office, then they will become ever more stressed and unhappy. This could result in many physical issues including a weakened immune system, trouble sleeping, and other health problems.
The Fix: Encourage your team to have a healthy work-life balance (encourage vacations and personal days—be flexible whenever possible), and let them know that you’re happy to discuss their concerns with you. Survey your team to find out what’s going on—so you can start to fix the toxicity from its source.
There’s Narcissism-Fueled Competition in the Air
Project managers who want to motivate their team often use a healthy sense of competition to enhance productivity. They do this by simply recognizing the good work of their employees. This creates a sense of urgency for others and helps everyone grow. Competition between employees based on narcissism isn’t healthy and can breed negative feelings.
The Fix: Narcissism isn’t productive, and can hurt the morale of others. You may need to modify the behavior, or even cut ties if that isn’t successful.
You’re Losing People
One of the most significant signs of a toxic workplace is a high turnover rate. If your employees are jumping ship left and right, it’s probably not about them. There will always be individuals that seek new opportunities. If your team is leaving en masse, it’s time to think about how your organization’s culture and environment might be a factor in the exodus.
The Fix: You may not be able to keep some from leaving, but you can learn from them. Conduct exit interviews and invite them, to be frank. Let them know this is only to make the workplace healthier, and will not affect how you speak of them in the future. Then, get ready to make some changes for a healthier environment.
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Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.