Are Your Employees in a Toxic Work Environment?

How is your work environment? Are your employees happy?
Healthy? Motivated? Productive?

Do you spend more time worrying about the regulations at your workplace than actually doing the important work at hand?
How's your turnover rate?

There are ways to ensure that your work environment stays productive with satisfied employees and it can start with just a few simple steps...


medium_2473053902Very few people start a company with the intent of creating a toxic work environment for their employees, but many people don't realize how their actions as an administration can very quickly create this effect.

A friend was telling me about some recent changes in her workplace, and sadly, this is a story that could be from many workplaces around the country -

Her administration changed. The new team came in and made a LOT of changes before they even learned about what was really happening at the company. They fired all of the managers - including ones that would have been extremely helpful to them. They hired new people that were not really qualified or experienced enough for their new roles. They changed almost every office procedure. They "re-organized" the departments. New rules and regulations began popping up daily. They started watching computers, blocking access to many sites, monitoring emails, phone calls, etc. Micromanaging was an understated term. Laughing or anything that even remotely resembled socializing quickly became taboo. Communication was basically nonexistent. The employees had to learn about the changes either by word of mouth or when they were handed one of the written discipline slips that were suddenly becoming a regular occurrence.

Some companies do indeed need big changes. This particular one did not need many of the changes that were implemented. In fact, the changes have caused much higher inefficiency. Clients are not being properly served and client satisfaction is going down. Employee morale and motivation is at an unprecedented low. Innovation has stopped. A place that once had a building full of pleasant, smiling, productive employees who enjoyed their jobs is now a quiet and stress-filled mausoleum. Use of sick days have gone up and several employees have unfortunately seen the inside of the emergency room in the last couple of years since this change went into effect. You can feel the tension the moment you walk in the door. Everyone thought it would get better as the new administration settled in, but it just keeps getting worse...


Every workplace has its stressors, and change of any kind - even good change - can be very stressful. As an employer, sometimes you have no control over the inevitable stress in your workplace. However, you should always be aware of how things are affecting your employees.

This particular example is an extreme case (and I've only listed a few of the things going on there), but it is a perfect demonstration of how these things can affect your environment. You have a team of adults - over-regulating, monitoring, and stifling natural human behaviors is NOT going to go over well. Not communicating with them and only handing out confusing discipline notices without ever acknowledging the good work they do is going to only serve as motivation to NOT do their jobs. If they're afraid that anything they do is going to get them in trouble, then they'll just stop doing anything.

So how do you keep your workplace non-toxic?

Clear communication is key. And lighten up whenever you can! Google is consistently listed as one of Fortune's top places to work and it is because they do NOT have a lot of crazy regulations on their employees. Their buildings look like adult playgrounds and their employees are allowed to come and go whenever they please. In addition to their everyday stress relief benefits (like nap pods, game rooms, dogs at work, free food, free massages, slides from floor to floor, bowling, etc.) they also offer many wellness and continuing ed benefits. Some are work related, but some are not. And guess what? Google is also one of the highest ranked, innovative, and productive companies around.

Granted, most workplaces can not even come close to the extent that Google goes to for their employees, and that's ok. At the very least, take advantage of all the research Google has already completed about creating a productive work atmosphere. Every one of their employee "benefits" are based on data that they first researched, and it has all paid off.

Be sure your work environment isn't toxic. Show your employees that you care. Even if you can't control anything else, at the very least you can begin some form of a workplace wellness program. Give your employees the tools they need to release stress, increase their health, and boost energy and mood. Show appreciation and respect any way you can. Allow them to be adults, and you will see motivation and productivity rise, while sick days and turnover will drop.

Check in with your work environment as much as possible to keep it fresh and "clean." The world is toxic enough, work shouldn't be too!

"Imagine a world where most organizations were the best place to work. Imagine what we could be getting done on the planet if it were true."
-Karen May, VP of people development, Google

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via photopin cc

2 Responses

  1. I couldnt agree more with the "communication" aspect. But what about the virtual work environment? I can only think of using multi-functional project management tools such as Bitrix24 in making my virtual assistants feel they are monitored and taken cared of as far as their addressing their task issues and rewards for their performance are concerned.
  2. You're absolutely right - the virtual environment is definitely a little different! Obviously, you would have no control over your employees' physical space if you are working in a virtual environment. That would be up to them. But some of the basics like strong and clear communication, and general respect for your employees and their time would still be just as important. In fact, it may even be debated that it is more important because you are not right there physically to talk to them or to read body language and make sure everything is clear. They already have flexibility since they work from home, but being lenient on time off when needed, or having flexible hours sometimes, can send a clear message that you have respect for your employees and value them, their time, the work they do for you, and what's important in their own lives at well. Just that one little thing can go a LONG way for your employer/employee relationship! Also - if it is possible, plan once or twice a year a time for everyone to get together physically. It gives everyone a chance to talk in person, socialize, and have a chance for discussion all together. It is a great time to go over anything that is going on in the company and to let your employees know that you are there for them, they are heard, and they are important! Have a meeting in the morning (always include food :) ), then do something fun after. An activity that would be a fun, stress-relief activity that can serve as a bonding measure as well. People who work in the virtual atmosphere can really benefit from a day away from the computer and enjoying human interaction! I know some people that do a lunch or dinner thing around the holidays, then in the nicer weather meet somewhere for a conference/adventure day or couple of days.

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