According to 2017 research from the Workplace Bullying Institute, 1 in 5 workers are bullied at work and 61 percent of employees are aware of workplace bullying. Toxic workplaces are expensive, and it does not take many toxic employees to accelerate turnover. A Cornerstone on Demand report found that when just one toxic employee is added to a team of 20, good employees are 54 percent more likely to quit. The first step in building a healthier culture is to admit there is a problem and to let employees know that the company is aware of the problem. Executive coach Joshua M. Evans says that employees are not always willing to be the first to admit there’s a problem; they want leadership to speak up first. If it’s possible that the conditions rise to the level of a hostile workplace, it may be a good idea to assemble a team that includes your human resources (HR) lead and your legal counsel. Employers also need to dig deep into what is causing the toxic culture by getting feedback from employees through surveys or direct conversations with managers. Once the problem is understood, HR can take corrective action through either retraining the employee at the heart of the problem, removing the employee or reforming a practice. Restorative justice also may be needed to rebuild trust, and this process can require a trained facilitator to mediate a discussion between the people involved in the conflict to prevent the recurrence of damaging behavior. Finally, companies need to recommit to their core values and communicate them widely, as well as demonstrate how individual employee well-being is a priority. As the organization proceeds to transform itself into a place that fosters trust, which can be a long process, establishing two-way feedback is essential, says Randy Ross, organizational health and culture consultant. Authentic, transparent communication about the steps the organization is taking will go a long way toward helping employees understand that leaders are serious about change. Similarly, establishing ways for employees to communicate their feelings to leadership will help the organization track progress and identify areas that need attention, he says.
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