How To Avoid A Toxic Work Culture

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How does a company develop into a toxic workplace? Most of the time, it comes from pressure to do more with less. As the pressure increases by cutting costs, removing benefits, and increasing workloads without communication from management, it is not hard to find disgruntled employees everywhere.  

The Risks of a Toxic Workplace 

When a company faces pressure from shareholders, the workforce is the first place to make cuts. Chances are, your employees can handle pressure for a short amount of time, however, consistent overload will eventually result in employee burnout and decline in productivity. A reputation as a toxic workplace can take years to recover from. 

How to Avoid a Toxic Workplace 

Avoiding a toxic culture from taking hold is much easier than fixing it later. 

    1.   Ensure Employees Feel Listened To 

Ensure everyone has open communication with the decision-makers. You can do this with surveys, town halls or creating a human resources inbox where employees can submit questions anonymously. Empower your managers to have team meetings, an open-door policy and to bring employees’ concerns to their management team. Implement the small, doable fixes where you can and address employees’ questions. Often “being heard” costs nothing. 

    2.   Don’t Cut Employee Benefits 

Your employees rely on vacation, health insurance, pension programs, etc. to survive and provide for their families. Arbitrary changes can motivate the best employees to begin looking for opportunities elsewhere and make recruiting new employees more difficult. 

    3.   Continue to Provide Autonomy for Your Employees 

Empower your employees to make decisions within their area of expertise according to overall company rules and policy. Consider offering flexible working hours and location. Some constraints are necessary, but a level of trust (which must continue to be earned through employees not abusing that trust) will go a long way towards avoiding a toxic workplace culture. 

     4.   Recognize Your Employees for Their Efforts 

Recognizing employees and teams for their hard work is vital, and costs little to nothing. It can be as easy as company-wide emails recognizing employees or sending a thank you note to someone’s office.  

     5.   Continue to Foster Team Get-Togethers 

Bringing your employees together for a potluck vs. renting out a flashy conference centre for a holiday party can be just as effective. When times get tough, companies will sometimes cut out things like team gatherings. Employees notice these things and tend to feel unappreciated.  

Being Cheap vs. Cost Savings 

Reducing head count is one of the most effective ways of reducing costs and is far preferable to a general grinding down on the entire workforce. By trimming your organization with a scalpel, focusing on the least productive employees and areas of activity that can be eliminated, you can cut costs without impacting the valued employees who you want to keep and reduce the chances of a toxic workplace. 

Listening is Free 

The key is to communicate and listen to your workforce. This way, you can hear when things are starting to go downhill and you can make changes as quickly as possible before it’s too late. 


Kathbern Management is an executive search firm based in Toronto, helping companies find the executives and senior managers who not only have the experience and credentials to fulfill their responsibilities, but also have the emotional and “fit” requirements that will enable them to be successful in a particular environment. We simplify the process and, through our deep research, are able to bring more and better candidates forward than would ever be possible through a do-it-yourself passive advertising campaign. 

Contact us today for a free consultation about your key person search. 

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