Take steps to create a workplace that grows positivity and empowerment.
A toxic work environment doesn’t suddenly appear. It finds a welcoming host and grows slowly. HR can help identify signs of trouble—such as instances of discrimination, lack of accountability, hostile leadership, fearful staff, and information guarding—and address these before they have a chance to take root.
What are the signs of toxicity? For one, employees don’t take vacation days because they are afraid of falling behind and getting in trouble or even fired. Some other red flags include:
· Lack of bonuses or incentives.
· Employees feel compelled to stay at their desks all day.
· Employees make errors or leave the organization because they lack training to do their jobs properly and are afraid to ask for help or support.
· The break room is a ghost town because employees are afraid to or discouraged from taking breaks.
· Gossip and rumor-spreading is rampant.
· The organization’s values and ethics are poorly defined, and the culture doesn’t support them.
HR can help diminish toxicity with several steps:
1. Encourage workers to take their vacations and assure them that they don’t have to worry about their jobs or their work responsibilities while they are gone.
2. Develop incentive packages that include extra time off and even small bonuses. Use tokens such as small gift cards and food items to show appreciation.
3. Provide the option of standing desks; and/or encourage workers to occasionally stand up, stretch, and take breaks.
4. Make sure training doesn’t end after orientation or onboarding. Offer regular training on a range of topics that helps people do their jobs more effectively. Seek staff input on the kinds of education and training they want or need. Encourage workers to ask for additional training or support if they need it—without fears of being judged or penalized.
5. Model healthy behavior for employees. Don’t engage in gossip or backstabbing. Maintain a positive demeanor. Show an interest in employees’ feelings, thoughts, and concerns.
6. Regularly assess all employees on an individual basis for signs that toxicity is present or growing. Work to promote a culture that discourages toxicity and creates a healthy environment.