5 Moves for Business Leaders to Prevent a Toxic Workplace

5 Moves for Business Leaders to Prevent a Toxic Workplace

by Hannah Irvin

If you’re a business leader, you’ll agree with me that an established, hardworking, and loyal employee is an absolute treasure to have within your workplace. So, a staff full of gems is like hitting the workplace jackpot. Having and maintaining a top-notch staff is one of the most fundamental elements of success. So why then, according to Stanford Professor of Organizational Behavior Jeffrey Pfeffer, are negative workplace environments prevalent enough to be the 5th leading cause of death in the United States

             Given my daily involvement with candidates searching for jobs and businesses looking for employees, I’ve come to realize that even the most developed employees can and do get their spirits crushed by a toxic work atmosphere. With the impact of workplace toxicity on employee health at crisis levels, this should be an alarming call-to-action for business leaders.

These 5 moves will allow business leaders to prevent or address a toxic environment.

1. Take responsibility for the atmosphere you cultivate.

            Bottom-line, toxic workplaces are created from the top down, meaning they are the product of ineffective leadership. Supervisors with unacceptable style and behavior can immediately destabilize an eager team of employees. From this, a vicious cycle of symptoms can develop.

Here are those symptoms you can look for in employees that could indicate the presence of a toxic leader:

  • increased psychological distress

  • lowered self-esteem

  • heightened tension and emotional exhaustion

  • lowered job satisfaction

  • lower employee performance

  • decreased organizational commitment

  • increased defiant behavior

  • increased intention to quit

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 “The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower

To face this issue head on, owners and individual business leaders MUST take responsibility for the environments they cultivate.  

2. Know who you are as a person/company. 

            Establish a solid workplace culture and identify personal and workplace values.  Prior to hiring for your business, define these characteristics. If you’re hiring for a position that requires managing others, be certain the employee in this role will reflect these outlined values/cultural characteristics through his or her management style to the staff they will lead.  When the staff recognizes and believes in the company’s values, effective communication and positive performance are more likely to follow.  At Brannon Professionals, we’ve placed thousands of candidates with companies successfully due to value and workplace culture needs being aligned.


3. Set high standards for accountability.

            A baseline understanding should be set that the workplace will not tolerate cruelty, harassment, bullying, or emotional manipulation of any kind to any degree.  Assert that interactions are to be well-mannered and address an employee when any less-than-respectful behavior is displayed. 

These displays should be taken as warning signs that require immediate action because delaying action or ignoring the problem can have multilevel consequences that spiral within (and potentially outside of) the workplace.  As with anything, the longer you let a problem spiral out of control, the harder it is to fix.  Though you should be considerate and strategic with how you address an employee about any issue, do so promptly.


4. Have clear and consistent policies.

            A quick and easy way to prevent a toxic workplace is to have crystal clear and consistent policies and procedures. Collaborate with other leaders to construct fair and practical procedures and arrange for efficient training to be provided.  This especially includes employment-related policies such as hiring practices, promotions, and compensation structures. Clarify the expectations of each employee, and then keep those expectations.


5. Be available - and more importantly - approachable.

            Depending upon the hierarchy of your own position and all the responsibilities it may bring, it can be a trying task to stay connected with your team members when they need you. Nevertheless, it is important to keep your door open for those who look to you for guidance.  It is also just as important to be aware of your workplace behavior style to adapt to employees with various behavior styles. I’ve witnessed many bosses become unavailable to their employees, subsequently setting the needs and opinions of their team members lower on the priority totem pole and becoming agitated when approached. 

 To combat this, you should:

  • Ensure that your staff knows that they can always set a time to talk to you whenever they have any concerns or issues.

  • Mean it.

Resources to help you.

            Baird Brightman, a behavioral scientist at Harvard University, encourages that managers use resources such as behavior and motivator assessments and 360-degree observer ratings to recognize potentially toxic workplace behaviors, such as the aforementioned managerial disconnect. These assessments offer personalized insight into what an individual can do to correct their own limiting behavior and maintain approachability with any of the various unique members that make up their staff.

Do any of these considerations resonate with you? If so, which one?  Let us know which points or topics you could use more insight into here.  

Let us know if and how you and your team could benefit from Management and Staff Leadership Development consultations that Brannon Professionals will tailor to meet your organizational needs.  

To receive a personalized behavior and/or motivator assessment, click here or call us today at 901-759-9622 for more information.