Any good executive or owner of a company knows that culture is king. It's in your best interest to build an organization where shared values and virtues are held firmly, and where jerks, bullies, and troublemakers don't thrive.

Reason being, if your good workers and high performers are witnessing the toxic behaviors outlined below, it may be affecting them already. It means you may have lost the war on retaining them long term.

If you're an individual contributor and you work in such an environment, it may be time to evaluate whether staying further may affect your career path or, much worse, your health and well-being.

I'll let you decide what hits close to home (or right between the eyes). Here are the toxic behaviors commonly found in the unhealthiest of companies.

1. Management only focuses on what's wrong.

The atmosphere is one of fear, and employees walk on eggshells. Their bosses spend too much time looking for whom to blast for the latest wrongdoing. They wield their managerial batons to correct problems and reprimand people instead of giving positive feedback when things go right.

2. Too much bureaucracy keeps work from getting done.

There are so many levels of approval, so many committees that meet, and so many layers of management to make a final decision. The people that suffer from bureaucracy are the employees. It clearly communicates to them, "We don't trust you."

3. Employees are bullied or management tolerates bullying.

Babs Ryan, author of America's Corporate Brain Drain, says, "Only 1 percent of bullies are fired; action is usually taken against the [bully's] target. Your only choice may be to leave as quickly as possible -- especially if the company supports that bully repeatedly and has already exited several of the bully's targets."

4. Employees are treated as objects or numbers.

People are seen as worker bees serving the wishes of a top-down hierarchy in order to drive the bottom line and make shareholders happy. There is typically little regard for employees' happiness or well-being. 

5. Employees are overworked and overburdened.

People's personal or family lives are sacrificed for the job because overwork is common. As a result, you'll encounter high levels of stress, turnover, absenteeism, and burnout.

6. Too much gossip is killing morale.

Gossip is poison to the work setting. It causes disruption and is specifically designed to take someone down. Gossipers are often disgruntled and entitled. They spread their tumor by enlisting others, especially new hires, in their negative spin campaign.

7. Unethical behaviors are common.

In the most toxic workplaces, you'll find a rise in things like theft, fraud, sexual harassment, and workplace sabotage that disrupt morale and productivity.

8. The stress level is almost insurmountable. 

Stressful workplaces can greatly decrease the ability to focus and be productive. One study found that employees working under toxic managers were 60 percent more likely to have suffered a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition.

What do you do if you work for such a place?

First and foremost, steer clear of toxin mongers and don't get sucked into their toxicity. And if you truly love your job and don't want to leave, doing nothing is not an option.

If your trusted allies of good conscience outnumber toxic workers, and HR works on behalf of protecting the employee against a hostile environment, rally together to expose the problem and take out the perpetrators. 

If toxic behaviors persist in close quarters, bring in a third party to document meetings to protect yourself from undue stress and drama. 

Lastly, work to promote a healthy work culture together by living out virtuous behaviors of trust, respect, empathy, listening, and compassion. Do it consistently to squeeze out unwanted things like gossip, bullying, sabotage, disrespect, and insubordination. The larger the group campaigning against toxic behaviors, the better your chances that your toxic colleagues will be rooted out.

Published on: Mar 29, 2018