How toxic working cultures impact organisations

Gemma McCall reveals how poor workplaces affect employees’ health

A workplace free from toxic and problematic behaviour is a right, not a luxury for employees. Every employee in every organisation should feel safe and happy in their workplace as, at the end of the day, many of us spend more waking hours at work than we do at home. 
The importance of adopting a people-centric workplace culture and tackling problematic behaviour should be of upmost important to every business, no matter the size or sector. 
It’s been proven time and time again that organisations who put a positive employee experience at the heart of their business, and who focus on creating safe, inclusive, and supportive environments, thrive and are more successful. So why are some organisations still struggling to get this right?
Problematic workplace cultures can have a long-lasting, damaging effect on the employees directly experiencing the behaviour, as well as those witnessing it. Environments where bullying and harassment thrive leads to high levels of attrition, resulting in organisations with a deep-rooted negative culture losing great talent. This sentiment can often filter through to external stakeholders, impacting the organisation’s reputation.
Problematic workplace cultures can have a long-lasting, damaging effect on the employees directly experiencing the behaviour, as well as those witnessing it
Prioritising a positive culture, which is supportive, not only helps foster good mental health, but is essential for a progressive, modern working environment. However, almost half of the UK’s workforce say a toxic workplace culture is impacting their mental health, showcasing that it’s time for leaders to shift this to the top of their agendas to instil change. 
Impact on the employee
First and foremost, toxic cultures and problematic behaviour in the workplace can have a real lasting impact on the people who experience such instances.
Two in five employees across the UK have experienced problematic behaviour, such as bullying, harassment or discrimination at work; with 42% confirming toxic workplace culture has impacted their mental health.
On how experiencing problematic behaviour at work impacted them, two thirds of those who have experienced problematic behaviour at work confirmed it affected their confidence and ability to find a new job, whilst 67% suffered from anxiety as a direct result of workplace bullying. This led to 71% having to have therapy, demonstrating the prolonged impact negative workplace culture can have on individuals.
What’s more, more than a third of employees in the UK have felt silenced on issues that matter to them in the workplace, while 29% have taken time off due to an incident that happened at work, such as bullying, harassment, discrimination or sexual misconduct. 
A problem for productivity
Organisations not prioritising a positive culture will eventually falter, as productivity, creativity and growth rely on workforces that feel happy, safe and secure.
Negative workplace culture and employer traits are resulting in demotivated workforces, dipping productivity and many employees bearing the brunt of unacceptable behaviour. In fact, 42% of UK employees have previously left a job due to negative workplace culture, while 41% confirmed bad workplace culture has impacted their productivity and 34% have been less engaged with their job. Furthermore, a staggering three quarters have called in sick due to not wanting to see somebody with whom they have a negative relationship. 
It’s no surprise over a third confirmed an incident, such as bullying, harassment or discrimination, at work has led to them not trusting their employer. But what could employers be doing to protect their people?
Actions employers could be taking to protect their people
Not tackling toxic cultures and problematic behaviours within an organisation can have a harmful impact on the people at the heart of those instances, and leaders should absolutely have the safety and wellbeing of their employees at the top of their agenda.
Not only can these issues have a devastating impact on the victims, but this sentiment can often filter through to external stakeholders, impacting the organisation’s reputation and ultimately their bottom line.
Many of these incidents could absolutely be avoided and there are preventative tactics employers could be adopting to minimise the risk on their people, by protecting them. The data revealed that while the numbers varied between one-third and one-in-five across the sectors, many employees wouldn’t get involved if they witnessed somebody being bullied through fear of repercussions. However, the vast majority across all sectors surveyed, said they would be much more likely to report an instance of bullying/harassment if their workplace had an anonymous platform to do so. 
Anonymous reporting can provide employees with the confidence to speak up about bullying/harassment without having to factor in potential barriers. The safety this can provide could be the difference between reporting and choosing to suffer through bullying or harassment in silence. In addition, it can also provide useful data to employers about the behaviours and cultures that exist in their organisation, helping them to spot any potentially harmful patterns and take the appropriate action. 
The data quoted in this article comes from Protecting your people – find out more here 
Gemma McCall is CEO and co-founder of Culture Shift


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