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21st Aug, 2022

Christy Houghton
Christy Houghton
Job Title
Digital Content Writer

A toxic workplace culture is detrimental to every aspect of your business. It can negatively impact your workforce’s health and safety, your company reputation, and your recruitment and retention strategies.

In a survey of 1,000 UK professionals by Culture Shift, 71% said they needed therapy due to an issue they experienced at work, and 61% said they’d had to take long-term leave as a result of toxic behaviours.

What makes a workplace toxic?

Businesses have a legal responsibility to provide a healthy environment for its workforce, and any environment, behaviours, or practices which are harmful to employees – mentally or physically – are considered toxic. The more severe forms include bullying, harassment, and discrimination, which are unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Other forms can be harder to identify or measure in your own workplace, because most forms of it are more subtle.

Some signs to look out for in your company:

Communication: e.g., passive aggression, arguments, blaming, slurs, misunderstandings

Mental health: e.g., presenteeism, absenteeism, anxiety, burnout, stress

Culture: e.g., profit over employees, heavy workloads, lack of diversity, micromanagement

Behaviour: e.g., unfair treatment, singling out, undermining, malicious rumours, denying training opportunities or promotions, gaslighting

Bottom line: e.g., high employee turnover, low productivity, low employee satisfaction, bad reputation

If your business or team is facing any of these problems, it would be worth assessing your own company culture to enable you to make positive changes.

A healthier workplace

Your company culture should be inclusive and supportive, with a greater focus on the wellbeing of your workers than profits. Here are some tips for creating a positive workplace.

Inclusive culture – To diversify your workforce, you must ensure your recruitment process doesn’t exclude anyone from applying to your roles. According to Devi Virdi, Group Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Centrica, the mindset of inclusion must be nurtured “from the top down to the bottom up.” One person can’t make change happen on their own, there must be a support network for people from minority groups to build each other up.

Prioritise wellbeing – Presenteeism can damage workers’ mental health, and it’s caused by the pressure to work when they are unwell. You can imagine how this wouldn’t allow people to produce the best work. According to Deloitte and Mind, the UK’s presenteeism issue is considerable, costing employers between £26 billion and £29 billion annually through lost productivity alone.

Instead of praising people for ‘working hard’ by doing more unpaid overtime, praise those who turn their work phones off after work and finish work on time. That will ease the pressure from your workers to do more work and help them maintain a healthy work-life balance, which allows them to produce better work.

Provide training opportunities – Upskilling your employees motivates them to do better work for you, because it gives them a sense they are important to your business, and they will have greater longevity at your company. This also boosts your reputation as an employer and attracts a wider, more diverse talent pool. Expanding your fundamental requirements for your roles will give you more choice and greater opportunities to mould someone with potential into the perfect employee.

Communication is key – Being direct and having difficult conversations honestly is essential to healthy communication. It allows your teams to resolve any issues before they become problematic. Honest feedback, negative or positive, and providing clear instructions, can boost the development of your team more quickly. It also builds trust in your team to share their ideas without fear of judgement.

Culture of trust – Trust goes both ways. While it’s important to support your teams, micromanagement can show a lack of trust in your team members to get their work done. Workers end up feeling out of control of their own work and that they aren’t important to the company. This leads to a lack of engagement and job satisfaction, eventually causing them to leave. Delegating is better for everyone because you, as a leader, aren’t doing the work of your team, on top of your own, and your team feel that you value their voices.

For more tips on maintaining a healthy workplace culture, or to find a new role in a positive environment, contact your nearest Reed office.