How do you know if your business culture is toxic? First, don’t assume that your small business, entrepreneur—powered and small, is immune. Workplace toxicity emerges in businesses of all shapes and sizes and it can completely erode and destroy everything that you’ve built if you don’t deal with it fast.
This is a quick and dirty guide to how you can weed out the toxicity in your business and set your culture on a path to wellness and inclusivity.
First, look for the warning signs. These include: a lack of enthusiasm for the job; negative attitudes and a blame culture; fear of failure that’s pervasive; a sense of poor job security; lack of visibility into roles and responsibilities; no clear job descriptions and a lack of trust; high employee turnover; backstabbing and gossip; nobody is interested in taking a risk or being too inventive; ridiculous hours and expectations put pressure on people and performance; little praise, thanks or recognition for work done; and internal rivalries.
These are just some of the trumpets that scream toxicity in the modern workplace. There are plenty more, and most people (unless they’ve very lucky) have been sucked into one at some point in their careers.
Ditch the toxicity
If your business is manifesting some or all of these toxic markers it doesn’t mean that you’ve hit the end of the road and all is lost. There are ways to slide out from under the chaos to create a space that makes people feel welcome, inspired and engaged. And yes, it can be the very people who were feeling lost, isolated and angry just a few months before.
Here are three steps to detox success:
1. Stop micromanaging
Yes, you’re the boss. Yes, this is your business, your idea and your baby. But you hired people to do their jobs and your lack of trust is affecting their sense of purpose and wellbeing.
Imagine if someone over managed everything you did, double checked your every email and criticised you for using one word wrong? You’d lose the will to live. Resuscitate your business by giving people autonomy and recognising the value they bring.
2. Be authentic and care
If you don’t really care about how people are doing, then your culture will stay exactly as it is. Genuine and authentic engagement with your employees, not as numbers and To Do lists, but as people, will make them feel valued and recognised. At the same time, give thanks when they are due, recognise hard work and give people a sense of belonging.
3. Establish trust, transparency and safety
People in toxic workplaces feel insecure. They’re worried about being shouted at, being blamed and being black marked. This, unfortunately, is because they have precedent that says this is exactly what happens. To overcome this, build a culture that people can trust in. This needs transparency in communications and decision making, and giving people a sense of safety in their roles and responsibilities.
None of this can be done at speed.
Nobody can turn around a fragile and decaying culture in a matter of weeks – distrust is hard to break – but with a focused effort, the right expertise and a commitment to people, you can create an entirely new company that thrives.
Toxic people and corporate cultures can be very limiting and can serious affect the company’s growth and sustainability. In this piece, Chris talks about the importance of weeding out the toxic and building a culture of wellness and inclusivity and the benefits that this brings. He’s actually done this with his company so his insights are based on solid foundations but we won’t sell the business or anything like that.