What are the symptoms of a toxic workplace?
Social worker Melody Wilding, writing on the PsychCentral website, says that employees who are unhappy with their work environment often feel job burnout, fatigue, listlessness, and depression. Her post is aimed at helping employees recognize the signs of a toxic workplace — but the piece is just as valuable to managers who wish to check their own patterns of behavior.
Here’s a list of the kind of managerial behaviors every company wants to eliminate. You might pass it along to your supervisory personnel to use as an informal self-audit:
You’ve uttered the phrase “you’re lucky to have a job.” Not too tough to see the problem here. This kind of statement is symptomatic of an organization that thrives on bullying behavior and control, says Wilding. Not exactly the message you want to send to your employees.
Communication stinks. In toxic workplaces, employees may get little to no feedback about their performance, and when they do, it’s negative and harsh — not the constructive type.
Negative attitudes reign. If employees rarely show any enthusiasm — and rarely speak positively about their jobs and/or the company — bad things are brewing. Prepare for a mass exodus when the job market loosens.
The drama never quits. Cliques in the office? Backbiting and gossip? An unnecessary atmosphere of competition? More signs of inept management.
Dysfunction is the norm. Toxic workplaces are full of confusion, arbitrary deadlines, lack of focus, and a general malaise that “this is the way it’s always been done,” says Wilding.
If new policies or regulations are constantly getting added, or managers aren’t available to help solve problems, these are symptoms of a larger problem stemming from poor leadership and low morale.
You believe in the statement, “I’m the boss and they’ll do what I tell them to do.” Toxic bosses are unwilling to listen to others and feel as if their way is always the right way, according to Wilding. These types of managers make employees feel like the boss is always trying to control their every move — just waiting to pounce on them for messing up.
OK, we know your company’s not likely to have many managers whose behavior is as egregious as described here — but nobody’s perfect, and there may be times when a little of this kind of mismanagement may raise its demoralizing head.
And it never hurts for a manager to step back and run inventory on his or her strengths and weaknesses.