Unfortunately, toxic workplaces are not that uncommon these days and, worse still, they can come about even in seemingly well-run working environments. Even employers who have the best of intentions with their workforce can sometimes find that, over time, their workplaces have become less and less productive and unwelcoming. When employees feel that the overall level of morale is dropping in a business then – even if they have a relatively high level of resolve in their work – they can start to wonder if they might be better off elsewhere.
In the worst cases, toxicity in the workplace can lead to charges of bullying, racism, sexism, and ageism, all things that any forward-thinking company would not want to be associated with, of course. When people think that their chances of career progression are not related to their performance as an individual, then they will often refer to the working atmosphere as toxic. The same goes when personal or inter-departmental rivalries get out of hand and employees stop cooperating with one another. Not only will this necessarily lead to operational inefficiencies but it could result in some of your best people moving on where they don’t have to face such day-to-day struggles.
So, even if you have set out to create a cooperative and streamlined working culture in your business, it may be that you have a certain level of workplace toxicity building up. When morale begins to droop, it can soon snowball. Businesses, charities, and public sector employers alike can suffer from a great deal of reputational damage unless they take steps to improve employee morale and to deal with workplace toxicity. Emphatically, you cannot improve morale by simply paying workers more. This will offer a temporary fix and undoubtedly lead to a brief upturn in morale but it won’t deal with longer-standing issues surrounding toxicity in the workplace.
What are the best ways to deal with the long-term issues that surround employee morale? Which ones root out toxicity and make workplaces more engaging? How do you change the culture of a business or organisation such that it is more responsive to the needs of the people who work for it? All of these questions demand inter-linked answers because dealing with a toxic workplace culture will necessarily help to improve morale and make workplaces more accessible for all the stakeholders involved. Read on to find out what you can do.
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Understand What All Employees Think
Unless you know what your workforce actually thinks about working for you, there is no chance you’ll be able to really understand whether you have a toxic workplace or not. To do this, you will need to ask employees and elicit honest responses from them. Annual appraisals are insufficient in this regard, especially if you are asking employees to speak honestly about their frustrations and workplace problems with their line manager. Many workers won’t tell the truth if this is the case giving senior managers a distorted view of reality.
To overcome this, run an anonymised employee feedback survey instead. This way, you can ask them questions that you need to know the answers to, such as ‘Are you considering leaving the company in the next six months?’ or ‘What do you think could be done to improve your work?’
Get to Grips With What Workers Feel
According to WorkBuzz, a company that uses a secure online platform to gather real-time feedback from employees, knowing what your workforce thinks is only part of what you will need to assess to improve morale and deal with workplace toxicity. You also need to understand the feelings of workers. If not, then you will only receive a partial picture of what is going on. Any decisions you subsequently make will necessarily be adversely affected unless you take feelings into account.
One important aspect of this is workplace stress. Asking open-ended questions about feelings of workplace stress is an important part of assessing the situation. Alternatively, asking people to rate how challenged, bored, enthusiastic or engaged they feel they are with their work with a numerical scoring system will also yield valuable data. These days, the mental health of employees is often viewed as something that is just as important as physical health so assessing it and taking appropriate action will necessarily lead to a more contented workplace with less absenteeism due to ill health and stress.
Analyse Your Data With Artificial Intelligence
As mentioned, asking employees what they think and feel is crucial but this information is only useful if you can analyse it. In some cases, you will want to see if there are particular trends within certain demographic groups. You might want to determine whether men respond differently to women on average, for example. Alternatively, you might want to find out if younger workers tend to have a different experience of working for your organisation compared to those closer to retirement age. Even within medium-sized firms, analysing data and written responses takes time.
Therefore, opting for an employee feedback platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms makes a lot of sense. Anything from producing word clouds that give you insights into the emotional responses of workers to analysing data into workplace diversity can be achieved with AI securely and privately these days. Only when you have the metrics that inform better decision-making will you be on the right path to reducing – or even eradicating – workplace toxicity and improving morale.
Changing workplace cultures to make them less toxic and better places to work doesn’t happen overnight. All working practices become habituated to an extent and sometimes people are resistant to change, even change that may be in their best interests. That said, change is achievable and much more likely to be a success if you are armed with the right knowledge, to begin with. This is why workplace surveys are so crucial. They won’t just help to make your business less toxic but, by improving morale, also stem staff turnover rates and boost productivity. As such, they constitute a business tool that can help all firms to operate more profitably as well as amicably.