10 Signs Of A Toxic Workplace: A Checklist For Managers

Company culture has a significant impact on high turnover rates in the workplace. Even businesses with the best of intentions can end up with a toxic workplace culture if active steps are not taken to prevent it. These red flags are the top 10 signs of a toxic work environment:

1. Lack of Work-Life Balance

If the pride of the office comes from working extended hours and weekend shifts, it is usually a sign of a toxic work environment. For many years, hard work was equated with spending long work hours at the office and more time away from family. There has been a shift in American workers in recent years away from this trend, placing more value on efficient work and focused drive.

How To promote a better work-life balance

As an office manager, you can help encourage work-life balance through rewarding efficiency, lean practices, and streamlined processes. Show your employees that you value new ideas and processes that help make everyone’s work faster and easier. You can also demonstrate a keen respect for home life and time off by:

  • Celebrating upcoming vacations “wow that sounds really fun! I’m glad you’re getting some time off”
  • Respecting boundaries – always try to avoid calling an employee after hours or on a day off
  • Preventing negative feelings around other coworkers taking time off – help to alleviate the stress of an additional workload when one employee is off by facilitating in the delegation of tasks and helping with overall communication.

2. Low Morale

When even the best employees in an office have low morale and high stress levels, it can often point to a toxic workplace. Negative energy is highly contagious in an office environment, and it is essential the issue is tackled as soon as it is noticed. Employees care immensely about their psychological safety and workplace relationships. Do not underestimate the importance of these two factors!

How To improve low morale

Office managers can help encourage a positive work environment by actively celebrating ‘wins’ in the office, allowing inter-office friendships, and privately speaking to those trying to spread negativity. While a toxic environment can cause some individuals to become more negative than usual, there are also some toxic behaviors that may call for the termination of an employee.

3. High Turnover

Most employees are not willing to deal with toxic workplace behaviors for long. If you are noticing high turnover at your office, it is very likely that your employees are not satisfied with their work environments. This can be a result of a bad manager, chronic stress, or even the desire to get away from a single toxic person.

How To combat high Turnover Rates

Exit interviews can be an eye-opening practice for managers to get a better grasp on why their office is experiencing a ‘great resignation’. If you have a human resources department, they are often best equipped to handle these interviews. However, even a manager or supervisor can take the time to learn more about why an employee has made the tough decision to leave.

4. Toxic Employees

Just like high school, work places often experience cliques and bullying among their employees. If you have an employee, or a group of employees, that consistently stir up trouble or make others uncomfortable, it is likely you have some toxic coworkers. Identifying if these individuals are toxic by nature or are driven by an unhealthy environment will determine what steps need to be taken next.

How To handle A Toxic Employee

Separating these individuals immediately is necessary to prevent their behaviors from causing others to leave. Depending on the severity of their behavior, solutions can include:

  • A 1-on-1 meeting to make the individual aware of how their behavior affects their coworkers
  • A performance improvement plan to discuss expectations moving forward
  • Facilitating a meeting between several coworkers to discuss how behaviors affect one another
  • Formally firing the offending individual

5. Invisible Senior Leadership

Some of the largest corporations in the United States host annual or bi-annual meetings in which the senior leadership speaks to the entire organization. Many large companies also task certain members of the executive board to send out regular memos to all employees. The goal of this is to make senior leadership seem accessible and viewed as a part of the overall team.

How To Be An Accessible Leader

In small business management, this concept is even more important. If the lowest tier workers feel invisible to those higher up, it will have a negative impact on their view of the workplace overall. As a manager, you can help facilitate this transparency from ownership all the way down to the newest hourly employee.

6. Verbal Abuse

Not only is this a sign of a hostile work environment, it can actually be a suable offense in some states. Verbal abuse should never be tolerated in any form. Disciplinary actions to employees who are falling short on expectations or not following the rules is necessary, but there are ways to implement these actions without verbal abuse.

How To Address Verbal Abuse

If an employee, supervisor, or even an owner needs to be confronted about verbal abuse in the workplace, involve your HR department right away. If you do not have an HR department, make sure you have another trusted 3rd party present for the confrontation. Take thorough notes and have a performance improvement plan in place. If the verbal abuse continues, termination is likely necessary.

7. Poor Communication

Practicing clear communication is essential to running a business. A lack of communication can lead to many issues, from poor employee performance to a breakdown in company processes and procedures. Effective communication can vary immensely depending on the industry and size of the company. Seeking out the communication style that will best work for your organization is essential.

how To Improve communication Throughout Your Organization

As a manager, helping to facilitate communication on all levels of your organization is necessary. These are some common communication techniques that have proven successful for leaders:

  • Schedule update meetings or calls on a regular basis to keep employees in the loop on what is going on within the company.
  • Encourage and reward employee engagement in meetings and presentations
  • Outline clear goals and objectives for employees to perform. Put these in writing!
  • Start practicing clear communication from day one, beginning with outlining expectations and company goals in the job interview

8. Lack Of Recognition

Humans by nature are driven by praise in various forms. If an employee has been working extra hard or has done an excellent job, even the most humble will have a subconscious expectation of recognition. Without this recognition, employees can feel unseen and may be at risk of walking away from their job.

Tips For Praising Your Employees

You can prevent this in your organization by outwardly offering recognition to employees who perform well or go above and beyond expectations. Rewards do not always need to be in monetary form. Non-monetary rewards can be anything from a notice on the company bulletin board to getting a special parking spot. If you struggle to call out individuals, it is ok to reward a full team if they are doing a great job as well.

9. Poor Leadership

Poor leadership in itself can be one of the single most damaging parts of a company. Whether its’ one bad manager or an entire team of negligent executives, poor leadership trickles from the top down. While many aspects of a business can fail because of poor leadership, it is one of the top causes of a toxic work environment.

How To handle Poor leadership in your company

Being a manager under poor leadership can be a difficult place to be, as you are very likely feeling the effects of working in a toxic workplace too. It is intimidating to confront bad leaders, but can sometimes be necessary if you truly want to drive change. In some cases, owners or executives may not even realize how their words or actions are creating a toxic culture. Be careful when you address this issue, and be sure to draw boundaries for yourself on just how much you are willing to take.

10. Safety Issues In The Workplace

If your company is frequently reporting workplace injuries, close calls, or other voiced concerns, then you have an unsafe workplace. This is the single most common reason employers are sued! Not only is having an unsafe workplace illegal in many circumstances, it also makes your employees feel unvalued. This is a top sign of a toxic workplace.

How To Fix Safety Issues In Your Workplace

As a manger, you should be well-versed in the legal requirements surrounding safety in your workplace. If you manage a team in a larger organization, then you likely have an OSHA expert or equivalent. Always, always play by the rules when it comes to workplace safety. Recognize employees that have a good track record of following safety rules, and immediately talk to those who do not. Performance improvement plans related to safety need to always be in writing, and a safety professional should be with you if at all possible.

A toxic employee yells at the camera. This is one of the 10 signs of a toxic workplace.
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

What To Do With A Toxic Employee

Toxic employees can quickly bring down employee morale for surrounding team members. Addressing toxic behavior as soon as it is noticed or reported is necessary to keep it from spreading.

Arrange a meeting where the toxic employee can feel as comfortable as possible. Try to address the negative behaviors that led to the meeting in the first place, and ask questions that get down to their root cause.Some toxic employees can easily voice where their behavior and dissatisfaction is coming from, which can enable you to troubleshoot options for improvement.

Emotional health can also play a role in toxic behavior, which is trickier to handle from a management perspective. Always approach mental health issues with respect and empathy, while drawing firm boundaries on what is allowable and not allowable in the workplace.

How To Handle A Toxic Manager

Just as there are toxic employees, it is very common to find toxic managers in the workplace as well. Addressing issues with a toxic manager can be intimidating, especially that manager is your own. Here are some tips for dealing with toxic managers:

  • If that toxic manager is another manager in the organization, but not your own: Depending on your comfort level with this individual, consider talking to them 1-on-1 before involving someone higher up in the organization. There are many instances when a toxic manager might not know or understand the way their behaviors come across to their team.
  • If you do not feel comfortable talking to another manager, or if your conversation was not successful, involve HR or another trusted member of the executive board. Express where your concerns are coming from and how it impacts the company culture as a whole. Do not make suggestions on how the individual should be handled, as that may come across as sabotage.
  • If the toxic manager is your own: More often than not, the right move is to involve HR. If your company does not have an HR department, then speak with the owner or president of the organization to let them know what your experience has been. Remember that if you choose not to speak up, it is highly unlikely that the toxic issue will ever be addressed.

Promote A Positive Work Environment

This toxic workplace checklist is intended to be used as a tool for what to avoid in your own workplace. Toxic work culture is one of the top reasons for employee turnover. It is an expensive issue to have in your organization. Promoting a healthy work environment is the single best way to recruit and retain high-quality employees.

Health work environments always come from the top down. If leadership teams actively practice a positive attitude from day one, then a healthy workplace and positive employee behaviors are likely to follow. Common characteristics of toxic workplaces are a mirrored reflection of leadership practices. Good managers always practice the same behavior they expect out of their employees!

One important note on this article:

Several workplace issues were discussed in this article, along with suggestions for resolving some of these issues. While some employee behaviors can be remedied through meetings and performance plans, there are a handful of employee behaviors the need to be treated with very firm actions and terminations:

  • sexual harassment
  • bullying
  • intentional harm to others
  • verbal or physical abuse

Always involve human resources or a legal professional when dealing with these types of incidents. Play by the book and take thorough notes on any meetings. Make any disciplinary actions swift with no room for negotiations. Always follow up with any victims of these incidents, and make sure they are aware of the outcome.

Positive Workplaces Start With Strong Leaders

If you’re looking to grow as a manager in your organization, consider investing time in your own leadership skills. A great place to start is by reading The 11 Principles Of Leadership (And How To Use Them).

This article dives in-depth into the founding principles that many great leaders follow, along with tips on how to apply them to your work life.

A toxic manager sits at a table overlooking the city. This is one of the 10 signs of a toxic workplace.
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

2 responses to “10 Signs Of A Toxic Workplace: A Checklist For Managers”

  1. […] Does the manager take action to promote a healthy workplace? […]

  2. […] out our post on the 10 Signs Of A Toxic Workplace: A Checklist For Managers. This easy-to-follow guide can help you quickly spot areas of your business that may be signs of a […]

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