Is your workplace toxic?

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Is your workplace toxic? This is a question that every owner, CEO, manager, team leader, supervisor and staff member should be asking and answering, but most don’t.

It is also not a question that should be brought up once a year for an inspection or Board Meeting. Your staff and your business are suffering if this concept is not addressed on a daily basis.

If your staff for any reason are struggling to get out of bed to come to work, you need to know about it, because it will have knock on effect on morale and productivity which will influence your bottom line profits.  

If your staff feel that they cannot speak freely because the management already has a thousand and one things to do, so noticing that somebody is not eating their lunch or wearing the same clothes as yesterday are not always a priority. However, finding out about changes in people, even the small ones is important.

For a long time, it has been expected that a professional will walk through the door, becomes a staff member and all their baggage stays outside, but in reality, it does not happen, trying to sustain this long term is very counterproductive both on mental and physical health.

There are many types of personalities throughout a company, which is necessary because many are tied to job roles as well, but a strong personality can be very intimidating to somebody who is already living in a coercive environment.

Clearly, it is impossible for a CEO or owner of a large business to know each staff member, but they can ensure that an open door, non-judgemental policy is the ethos of the company. Investing in prevention is a lot cheaper than dealing with staff on long term sick with stress and burnout. Even if part of the recruitment and training budget was used as prevention rather than cure it would show results very quickly.

Simple things like a quiet area with some plants and a couple of seats where somebody can go to be alone, but this also needs to be monitored, if somebody is going there on a regular basis perhaps it is their way of asking for help. Notices on the back of toilet cubicle doors with the name or phone number they can use when they want to. Having guests in to speak about their mental health journey, also makes it easier for somebody to take the first step with a stranger, especially one that they may empathise with. Encouraging group tea/lunch breaks, many people can offload enough there, to make a difference.

A recent survey with Forbes and the NHS shows in their findings that over half of the businesses have employees that are struggling in their workplace. It is estimated over £700 million is the cost to employers. That is without the knock on effects to doctors, hospitals, chemists and personal anguish.

It is not essential for all management teams to have mental health training, most of it initially is common sense, but something that has been pushed down the priority list. Know your team, notice any changes in them, don’t excuse them or dismiss them, they are signs. If you can see this early and provide external or internal support, it is much more efficient and effective.

The words mental health have been around for many decades, but until the Covid experience many people and businesses were not really engaged or taking its significance seriously. Engaged, proactive staff is a huge bonus for any entity whether small, medium or large, they are assets and ambassadors for your brand. Having them out in the world feeling good about where they work is marketing that is extremely powerful.  

However, the reverse is also true, staff who are undervalued, overworked and suffer workplace toxicity are also talking about it, so a brand can easily be tarnished and recruiting good staff will be much harder.

There is no easy, quick fix or magic wand to change a murky toxic environment to a transparent one, but it can be done, methodically and getting everyone involved. Let all the staff know they are being listened to, even the quiet members as it is quite easy to hear from all the the more vocal people.

Nip personal conflicts in the bud, look into them thoroughly as narcissistic and sociopathic personalities can be very manipulative. Have a solid disciplinary documentation policy and signed behavioural policy on induction for all levels of staff. All this structure will help in the long term.

A good starting point is asking the staff how they are feeling at work, this can be done anonymously at first and then evaluate the information, but most importantly is the action taken, make sure staff see an outcome all too often they are asked to participate in tick box exercises and see no changes.

Unfortunately, not just one person can implement a workplace cultural change, but each person can make a difference. If you have had any significant time working, you will remember a bad boss, the effect they had on you and your motivation. When stepping up the ladder it is good to remember that you then have a choice to be like them or be different.

There is no such thing as a job for life any more, most people do change their employment and even career throughout their working life, but building a happy, harmonious workforce is important for all involved. There are always off days, but when these are the not the norm, there is a good chance that your staff and your business will prosper.

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Linda Sage
Baking a cake with murderers, afternoon tea with rapists and thieves, have been part of a non run of the mill life of Linda Sage. Living and working around the world as a criminal psychologist, lecturer, author, podcaster, speaker and broadcaster, didn't save her from burnout through the accumulated pressure of work, caring for elderly parents and a daughter on the Autistic Spectrum. Since 2011 Linda has been passionately empowering individuals to care for themselves. Self-care is not a luxury, mental health should not be taboo and asking for help is not a weakness. Helping organisations cultivate & strengthen the mental health capacity of their staff in order to increase morale, enhance productivity, improve retention, engagement & efficiency. Unmask mental health & hidden disabilities in the workplace to break social stigma to build better relationships and a better business. Unmask mental health to break the social stigma and build better businesses.