The saying “people join companies but leave managers” has many applications and often rings true. Toxic managers destroy morale, performance and retention.
A toxic worksite refers to a workplace environment where there is a negative or hostile organizational culture fueled by disrespect, mistrust, discrimination, harassment, bullying, and other unethical behaviors.
This leads to high levels of stress, anxiety, depression, burnout, and low morale among employees.
Common signs of a toxic worksite include high turnover rates, frequent employee complaints, lack of collaboration, poor communication, micromanagement, and no work-life balance. The toxicity permeates relationships and corrodes the structures and processes that are meant to support a functional, productive workplace. Ultimately, a toxic worksite creates psychological and emotional damage for employees, hurting their well-being and negatively impacting their ability to thrive in their roles. Transforming a toxic worksite requires rebuilding trust, accountability, empathy and installing proper policies and procedures to foster a healthy, ethical and caring organizational culture.
Warning signs of a toxic workplace culture include:
- Bullying, threats, intimidation or belittling
- Favoritism and bias in decisions
- Harassment or discrimination without consequences
- Resistance to diverse perspectives and collaboration
- Self-serving leaders taking credit for team wins
- Obsession with rigid hierarchy and controlling information
- Lack of work-life balance or accommodation
- Discouraging dissenting opinions and concerns
Drawing from our combined expertise in organizational culture, we can tell you that a toxic workplace is one marked by abusive behaviors that degrade employees, destroy morale, and breed distrust. This can happen from any level. Management can be toxic, but more often we see staff and line employees who create a toxic atmosphere for others. Of course, this often stems from poor management that allows the grip of toxicity to take hold. Once rooted, toxicity spreads quickly.
Prevention starts with modeling respectful behavior from the top-down. Leaders must nurture psychological safety by inviting input, acting with integrity, and caring for employees as humans beyond roles. Hiring managers should assess values alignment, not just skills. Formal training builds empathy and emotional intelligence at all levels.
Managers need to practice consistent and effective coaching and progressive discipline.
Don’t allow the little things to slip by you without confronting them. An employee’s poor attitude, disrespect, or rudeness to others is never ok to ignore. Not even once.
It shows other employees that it is not important to you. Use good HR techniques for corrective action and coach bad attitudes up… or out.
Reversing entrenched toxicity requires systemic change, not quick fixes. Based on established best practices, crucial steps include:
Bringing in independent human resource consultants can help to surface the true culture versus stated values. Surveys, focus groups, and interviews collect unbiased data.
Creating psychological safety for those reporting issues. Protect them from retaliation and ensure anonymity if desired.
Imposing consequences for inappropriate conduct, especially involving those in power. Failure to act signals acceptance.
Establishing clear, enforced policies on expected behaviors and reporting channels. No room for gray areas.
Increasing transparency around decisions, finances, and metrics to rebuild lost trust.
Providing mentors and peer support systems for victims of past toxic behaviors.
Seeking input at all levels on desired culture changes. People support what they help build.
Corporate culture reflects leadership priorities. Nurturing an ethical, inclusive workplace requires constant modeling of desired behaviors. But bringing light into dark places lays the foundation for positive change.
Left unchecked, toxic culture permeates the entire company. Employees under toxic management will leave at the first opportunity, increasing turnover. A healthy culture supports diversity, inclusion, growth, work-life balance and mutual respect.
Table Of Contents
TOC - Visit our Table of Contents Page for this engaging and dynamic series of informative articles about Employee Turnover compiled by our expert human resource consultants.
The sources and end notes for the main article, this article, and all of the sub-pages is listed below. All information is used under the Fair-Use.
Joseph Campagna, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is president and owner of My Virtual HR Director, a human resources outsourcing company serving small and medium sized businesses nationwide. My Virtual HR Director provides an executive level HR advisor to companies that can’t afford or can’t justify hiring a fulltime HR professional on staff.
With twenty years of experience dedicated to the HR profession, Mr. Campagna has honed his skills as an expert in compliance, talent management and employee relations. Bringing human capital management experience from start-ups, IT and biotechnology companies, employee leasing, and fortune 100 behemoths Mr. Campagna has filled his tool belt through generalist work, executive positions, and consulting opportunities with companies such as ADP, Merrill Lynch, and Johnson & Johnson. As Vice President of HR for biotech company Hemo Concepts, as well as the head of HR for the global IT solutions company, the Galaxy Group, Mr. Campagna created rich and successful organizational development and employee engagement programs.
Having worked with a diverse group of companies and clients in a broad spectrum of industries and environments, he brings a unique HR philosophy to every organization he works with. “HR is not the picnic department,” he says “but instead bears the full responsibility and the unlimited potential for a highly productive and efficient workforce. If HR systems are successful, the organization’s revenue should be increased.” From mergers and acquisitions, to IPO’s, to new product development, to divestiture Mr. Campagna has a true business background to support his HR Architecture.
Mr. Campagna is certified as a senior professional through both the Human Resources Certification Institute (HRCI) and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The HRCI designation of Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) is an experienced-based examination certification. The SHRM certification is a competency based examination certification. Each is a premier designation in the world of HR and recognized by the Society for Human Resource Management of which Joe is a national member and former chapter president.
Mr. Campagna brings decades of helping small and medium sized businesses create HR structures such as employee handbooks, performance systems, talent management, training programs, and employee engagement. He knows how to deliver business results through HR aligned objectives.
Nearly 30 years of expertise and HR executive authority combined with a group health insurance license and certifications from the Society for Human Resource management and the Human Resources Certification Institute have given Joseph Campagna the guru status that has earned him leadership roles, board of director roles, and speaking engagements related to human resources.