4 Characteristics of a Toxic Workplace – And How to Avoid Them

One of my favorite parts of my job is getting inside the heads and hearts of the companies and organizations I visit. Every company has its own unique culture and a lot of leaders I talk to are in the midst of trying to transform their company culture. No one thrives in a toxic workplace… but how do we avoid getting there in the first place? Here are four behaviors that contribute to a toxic workplace—and how you can avoid these common pitfalls.

Not celebrating success. A friend of mine had a boss who simply never got excited about anything. Whether she won a big client, closed a big deal, or exceeded sales goals, there was never a celebration. Her boss was too afraid that the team would immediately think the huge new deal would mean more money for the company, ergo the employees would want more money and ask for a raise. The boss was so focused on the bottom line, he didn’t see the morale buzzkill he was causing. Celebrate the wins- big and small.

No trust. A lack of trust in the workplace is extremely toxic. If the boss doesn’t trust the team to get the job done, most likely the job will never get done. If employees aren’t trusted to fulfill their roles, they’ll start losing confidence and productivity will decrease. Managers need to trust they have the right person in the right role (if not, maybe it’s time for a tough conversation). A true leader cannot be involved in every company decision; they hire the right people and let them make decisions so their time can be used effectively elsewhere. If they fail, they can learn and grow from their own mistakes.   To avoid a lack of trust in the workplace, become a better communicator. If you’re having trouble with an employee’s work – tell them. Don’t do it for them. This will quickly spiral downward into an environment where there is zero trust.

Afraid of change. Have you ever heard the adage “The seven most expensive words in business are ‘We have always done it that way’”? Most people who respond that way are afraid of change. Yes there are merits to methods that are tried and true, but only if you are constantly looking at what could be done differently and how it could be improved. After all, the only thing constant in life is change. To battle this fear of change, it’s important to own your fears and communicate them with your team or boss. After that, become involved in the change if you can and, most importantly, keep doing your job. As you focus on working and keeping an open line of communication with your team, you’ll better handle changes as they come.

 All business all the time. It’s important to keep a level of separation between your professional life and personal life; but at the same time, we spend most of our waking hours with the people we work with, and like it or not, your colleagues will get to know the whole you. If your employee or colleague’s child or parent is sick, ask about it. People want to know that you care about them. Poet Maya Angelou said it best, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When people feel supported and understood, they are more likely to stay engaged and motivated at work.

 Your Game Changer Takeaway

Are any of these underlying causes of toxic workplaces creeping into your company culture? Be intentional about making a shift! Celebrate the big successes at the office and also the little ones – it’s great for both morale and employee engagement. Trust your employees to do their jobs and then get out of their way! Embrace change; but if you can’t embrace it, accept it. Most importantly, remember to treat colleagues as the human beings they are. And if these characteristics remind you of your workplace, do what you can to fix it or be ready to make a big change of your own.

 The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working with elite athletes and coaches as a sports agent, and applies them to the business world. Her new book, Fearless At Work, is now available. Sign up here to receive our monthly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes.