HR EXPERT: How To Address Claims of a Toxic Workplace

HR EXPERT: How To Address Claims of a Toxic Workplace

Q- My client has had a number of employees resign in recent months blaming a ‘toxic’ company culture, what can they do to improve this?

A- Departing employees often mention specific factors behind their decisions to leave in their resignation letters or leaving interviews. These can vary greatly and are generally specific to the individual, however, if your client finds the same themes are regularly cropping up then they need to take a closer look. References to a toxic company culture can be particularly concerning and your client should act promptly if they hope to improve the situation.

Employee behaviour can be a key contributor to a toxic company culture, with bullying and harassment often creating a distressing working environment. The existence of a ‘lad culture’ and the banter that is attributed to it is also becoming an increasingly common concern in certain industries. To address this, your client needs to ensure reliable grievance reporting and disciplinary processes are in place. Staff should also be made to undergo mandatory training which explains the organisation’s stance on bullying and unacceptable behaviour, with a special emphasis on the dangers of workplace banter.

High workloads, unrealistic expectations, and managerial pressure can also be pivotal ingredients in creating a toxic company culture. To address this your client should review current workloads and look to distribute work evenly, whilst line managers should be encouraged to look for the signs of employees who may be struggling and urged to support them accordingly. Getting a handle on this will be important in reducing employee stress levels and preventing the existence of leavism.

Another common feature of a toxic company culture is that employers often take a derisory attitude towards employee wellbeing, looking down on those who need to take time off due to illness. Therefore, your client should make sure appropriate policies are in place, outlining their commitment to supporting employees during times of ill health and ensuring they are not subjected to any harassment upon their return. Your client may also consider providing enhanced rates of occupational sick pay, or access to employee assistance programmes (EAP), the latter of which can be particularly beneficial for those suffering from mental health issues

To ward against a toxic company culture, your client should work to create a happy and positive working environment. This can be achieved in a number of ways, either by providing inexpensive perks or incentives for staff, such a designated dress down days, which help to boost morale. Organising team bonding exercises outside of normal working time are also a useful way of developing a sense of cohesion and camaraderie amongst employees, whilst it is important to suitably reward those who regularly meet performance targets.

If left unchecked a toxic company culture can create significant problems for your client. To properly address this your client needs to conduct a full review of existing practices with a view to creating a more positive and welcoming working environment.