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How Employers Can Avoid Toxic Culture in the Workplace

Toxic culture in the workplace has always been a significant cause of attrition and turnover. Over the last couple of years, however, with employer-employee relationships being turned upside down, toxic culture is now taking front and center.  According to a 2021 MIT Sloan Management Review study, toxic culture is “driving the Great Resignation,” serving as the top predictor of employee turnover, outpacing wage dissatisfaction and failure to acknowledge employee performance.

Toxic Culture Now Takes the Lead When Predicting Attrition

According to MIT, corporate culture serves as a more reliable predictor of turnover than views towards compensation, which may catch some leaders by surprise. Today, toxic culture is 10.4 times more likely than wages to contribute to attrition and turnover, and leaders should take note. So, what contributes to a toxic culture in the workplace? Here’s what the MIT researchers found:

  • Failure to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Employee feelings of disrespect 
  • Unethical behavior

You may have other elements that you believe contribute to toxic workplace culture, including poor management, bullying and negativity, lack of communication, gossip, lack of trust, and rewarding bad behavior. However, with toxic workplace environments driving employees to resign, leaders must take proactive steps to avoid toxic culture – whether their employees are on-site, remote, or hybrid.

Although you can’t fix the toxic culture in the workplace overnight, you can identify the issues within your organization contributing to the negative atmosphere while creating a roadmap for healing. Keep reading to learn three strategies to help avoid a toxic workplace culture, allowing you to reduce your turnover and boost your retention.

1. Find the Source 

When sifting out cultural toxicity, you may need to do some investigation. Do you know from where your toxicity emanates? Is it one or a group of employees?  How about a manager?  Perhaps it’s an entire department or subsidiary?  

Identifying the source of toxicity can often help you determine how best to move forward. For example, you may decide that a toxic person be reassigned to another department. Or, you may have a one-on-one discussion with that person, expressing concern and offering coaching for the struggling employee or manager.

For employees subject to workplace toxicity, you may offer them a lateral move, removing them from a negative environment and giving them a change of pace, potentially increasing job satisfaction. After all, providing workers with lateral opportunities is “2.5 times more powerful” as a predictor of an organization’s retention rate than compensation. Further, lateral career opportunities are 12 times more predictive of employee retention than promotions.

2. Promote Professional Development

All people professionals know that employers should focus on re-skilling and upskilling their employees. This is a significant need in today’s workforce, as skills gaps widen. However, beyond filling the skills gaps, your employees are more likely to stay if you offer (and promote) professional development.

Consider the following:

3. Encourage Open Communication and Constructive Feedback

Finally, to help combat a toxic culture in the workplace, encourage open communication and constructive feedback from your employees – and don’t forget to act upon this input. 

One way to achieve openness and honesty is to encourage employees to complete an anonymous survey. Employers are more likely to receive candid feedback without knowing who submitted each response, while employees will feel safer behind a wall of anonymity. 

Have one-on-one or small group discussions with employees about culture, making room for honest conversations, expressed empathy, and a listening ear. Employers must embrace the two-way street of communication as much as employees. Be sincere. Listen carefully. And then take action, showing your employees that you’re committed to improving corporate culture.

Leaders serious about retaining top talent must do more than offer competitive compensation and benefits. Instead, they need to prepare for the long win, focusing on creating and maintaining positive workplace culture while helping employees engage, and increasing loyalty. 

By considering how some of these suggestions might help improve your workplace culture, you are already driving your work culture in a positive direction. If you would like support in your efforts or see how Cangrade can complement your practices, request a demo today.