Avoid Toxic Work Culture: Implement Team Building Activities for Adults
Some of our favorite comedies focus on workplaces – often toxic ones. Severance, The Office, Thirty Rock, The IT Crowd, and even Parks and Rec had us laughing along while self-centered bosses and backstabbing co-workers, gave in to gossip, insults, and bad behavior, often trampling over the boundaries of other employees.
But in real life, toxic workplaces are not fun. In fact, according to a recent study, a toxic work culture is the number one reason for employees to resign.
Toxic workplaces are sometimes difficult to address because one of the first things to go is trust and communication. Often, team members are reluctant to come forward because of concerns that they will experience further isolation or retaliation. But the signs are there if you are willing to observe and trust your instincts. The first thing you will notice is that things just feel bad. The friendliness and openness that creates strong engaged teams are absent. You may notice that people do not seem to be enjoying each other’s company. Absenteeism and turnover may have increased. You may be aware of divisions between managers and employees. Cliques may replace friendships. You may notice that few people speak up during meetings. You may hear managers criticizing employees and focusing on control more. Deadlines fall behind as employees begin to offer less support to each other. There may be a more hushed conversation. Healthy competition may have been replaced by fighting and undermining each other’s performance. Instead of warm engaging humor, jokes have devolved into digs.
It is often difficult to address toxic workplace culture through individual performance management. Cultural issues are pervasive and collective team issues. That being said, if an employee is identified as harassing others or sabotaging another’s performance, it is important to act. Safety and trust need to be fostered.
How Managers Can Combat a Toxic Workplace and Create a Unified Team
There are two important things to remember when addressing cultural issues in the workplace. First, toxic workplaces can be turned around, and secondly, the problem wasn’t created in a day, and it will take time to create a unified team.
To ensure a successful turnaround, you will want to start with your leadership team. All managers and supervisors must be on board. Everyone must be aligned and willing to model openness to receive difficult feedback and hear new ideas. Nothing shuts down a culture initiative like leaders who respond defensively and rigidly.
Once your leadership team is on board, you can shift your focus to your full team. Share with your employees that you have a goal to create a more welcoming and engaging workplace culture. This isn’t a secret mission. You’ll want to harness the power of a shared vision.
- Create opportunities for employees to share ideas in a variety of ways from anonymous surveys, to meetings with supervisors, to full team brainstorming.
- Understand that when a workplace becomes toxic, employees are more stressed out and isolated. Help employees relieve stress and build connections through fun social activities like shared gaming, special meals, book clubs, and social events. Contract with a local massage therapist for monthly chair massages. Know your team members and plan an outing that they will enjoy. Hire food trucks to cater a meeting. If your employees are adventurous, consider a challenge course or an escape room.
- When things feel toxic, employees feel less comfortable with risk and growth. That can exacerbate job dissatisfaction. Implement lunch and learns. Create opportunities for employees to lead new initiatives and work with other team members. Ensure that the leadership team embraces the aspects of a learning culture where mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth. Coach rather than criticize.
- Shared impact brings people together. Sponsor charities for employee giving or have the team participate in a community service day where together you support a local nonprofit.
- Bring in outside human resources professionals to lead team-building meetings. Sometimes staff meetings and retreats inadvertently reinforce the divide between managers and their teams by having leadership facilitate meetings. A seasoned facilitator will be able to design a retreat that breaks the ice, sets a solid foundation for culture improvement initiatives, and encourages team building.
- Emphasize appreciation and say thank you often. Build appreciation circles into meetings. Empower supervisors to reward employees with gift cards, time off or other incentives to recognize a job well done. Highlight the achievements of employees who are invested in the culture change.
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Looking for ways to enhance your workplace culture and create a unified team?
TANDIUM Corporation’s knowledgeable staff can help you transform your workplace culture. TANDIUM Corporation specializes in serving the Human Resources, Payroll, and Benefits needs of small and medium-sized businesses and non-profit organizations. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.