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A toxic workplace doesn't become that way overnight. Usually, it's the result of months (or years) of culture neglect. And pinpointing the exact causes may be challenging, particularly if your company is already struggling with transparency.
A new report published Wednesday may help shed some light on the subject. Workplace consulting firm Emtrain, whose clients have included companies like Netflix, Pinterest, and Yelp, surveyed 40,000 employees at 125 companies throughout 2019. The results ought to be eye-opening for any leader: Subtle social dynamics within your company that you may not be aware of have the ability to create real toxicity among your ranks. Consider the following stats from the report:
83 percent of employees wouldn't report harassment if they saw it.
41 percent of employees aren't confident that if they made a harassment complaint, their management would take it seriously.
Only 20 percent of employees think managers are aware of how their power influences workplace interactions.
The report further found that 29 percent of employees surveyed--almost one in three--have left jobs due to "workplace conflict." That's definitely not good news in this hiring environment.
While there's no perfect formula for building healthy, resilient cultures, I've encountered some unconventional strategies in my reporting. Last August, Eric Rea, co-founder and CEO of enterprise software startup Podium, told me that he encourages his co-workers to play video games at work (specifically, Fortnite Battle Royale). It wasn't just a quirky workplace perk--it was an intentional hierarchy-flattening strategy. If Rea's workers felt comfortable walking into his office to play video games, they'd be more likely to see him as approachable for more serious issues.
Other fixes are simpler. In January, business author Scott Mautz compiled a list for Inc.com of nine ways to quickly improve a toxic culture. Here's No. 4: Take an instant stand for openness. "[Be] transparent, vulnerable, and honest in your communications," Mautz wrote, adding that workers often mirror the actions and attitudes of their leaders. "If employees don't feel comfortable speaking up, they'll feel less comfortable keeping it bottled inside."
It's your job to create an environment where your employees can consistently function at their best. And the best leaders treat that job as one that's never finished.