Dissecting toxic work cultures

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The whitepaper points out that the most damaging element of a toxic culture is its tendency to infect other teams, as this will damage the organization as a whole. The actions of employees in one team will begin to be seen (or experienced) by other teams, who will then begin to act the same way, allowing the toxic culture to become a corporation-wide problem.

Key HR takeaways
Leading Geeks outlined four key steps to remedy a toxic team in your organization:

Find the toxic behaviours and their impact
Identify the behaviours that you find the most troubling. This list will not be exhaustive – most of the problems will be clear to you. To help complete the list, ask yourself and your staff what bothers them the most, what others are complaining about, and what the excuses most used in the organization are.

Now analyses these behaviours. How are they impacting your operations? What emotional responses do team members have to them, and what assumptions arise? You should now begin to see patterns in terms of what behaviours are having an impact on your staff, and can begin to priorities what needs to be addressed.

Claim and assign responsibility
If a toxic culture has been allowed to develop, HR will need to claim a bulk of the responsibility for it. However, others may have direct or indirect responsibility, and should be identified. Who initiated the behaviour? Who responded in kind/escalated or rewarded it? Indirectly, who tolerated the behaviour or encouraged it?

Plan your interventions
With the behaviour and those responsible identified, it is now time to intervene and improve the situation. Your intervention must address the behaviour itself, not the emotions or assumptions.

The intervention may only affect one individual and involve hiring a coach to work through their behavioural issues, private conversations, or even warnings and demotions. Otherwise, they may be collective and involve training sessions, offsite meetings with the whole team, revamping team arrangements or simply emails about what behaviour is acceptable.

Implement and monitor
As with any initiative, ensuring its longevity in the organization is important. Behaviour should be rigorously monitored and measured to ensure people don’t fall back into old behaviours. Signs that indicate your initiative is working include:
  • People thank you for intervening.
  • A measurable sense of relief across the organization.
  • Creative energy is focused onto the project (not problems).
  • Disagreements are about the work, not personalities.
  • Turnover slows down (or stops entirely).
  • Less time is devoted to private, whispered conversations.
 
Have you dealt with a toxic culture/team in your career? How did you deal with it?
 

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