How to protect people and reputation

Gemma McCall uncovers the reputational repercussions of toxic workplace culture and how to tackle bullying and harassment

As the ‘great resignation’ continues to impact organisations nationwide, and with skills shortages persistently affecting most sectors, there has never been more pressure on organisations to truly understand what is important to their people. 

From work-life balance, to trusting their employers and colleagues, positive workplace experiences are more important than ever before, yet leaders are failing to put measures in place to protect their people. 

In fact, 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.

More than two fifths (45%) of employees across the UK would leave a bad review online or warn people about applying for a job with a company due to bad culture

And, it’s not just the employees who are impacted by problematic behaviour in the workplace, it’s the wider organisation and its reputation. Whether it’s potential new recruits, customers or investors, having a positive reputation externally can often be what makes or breaks a company, but what are the true reputational repercussions of having a toxic workplace culture? 

Impact on employer brand 
In the past, it has been easy for organisations to keep scandals and reports of problematic behaviour out of the public domain, but thanks to the growing power of social media, employees are feeling more empowered than ever before to talk about their workplace experiences and when they do take their stories online, they can be amplified globally in seconds. 

More than two fifths (45%) of employees across the UK would leave a bad review online or warn people about applying for a job with a company due to bad culture and, with so many being prepared to share their negative experiences with the world, this will ultimately tarnish the organisation’s reputation as an employer. 

It goes without saying that in the current climate, where we have an employee’s market, candidates are doing their research before applying for jobs. From having conversations with their connections and assessing an organisation’s social media presence to looking at online reviews, candidates are taking their time to explore organisations before applying for jobs, let alone accepting them. 

In fact, almost half (46%) wouldn’t apply for a job with a company that had a poor Glassdoor review, while two thirds (66%) wouldn’t accept a job with a company known for having a bad culture. 

Impact on your bottom line 
Research shows that having a culture which fosters problematic behaviour doesn’t just impact an organisation from a people point of view, but also from a financial perspective when it comes to consumer buying habits and investor appeal. 

More and more people are choosing to buy from brands which align with their values and beliefs. In fact, Yopto’s annual State of Brand Loyalty survey for 2022 reveals 9 in 10 UK consumers are more inclined to buy from a brand whose values align with their own, so it’s no surprise that almost two in three (62%) wouldn’t buy a product or service from a company known for treating employees poorly. 

But it’s not just consumers that keep a close eye on how organisations treat their employees, it’s also investors. Problematic workplace behaviour can have a big impact on an investor’s decision on whether or not to provide funding, which can have a long-lasting impact on a business. Eight in 10 (82%) wouldn’t invest in a company that had been embroiled in a public scandal, while almost three in four (71%) wouldn’t invest in a company with a problematic workplace culture. A further 71% wouldn’t invest in a company that had a poor reputation.

What’s more, organisations may think that if they already have their investors bought in then a toxic workplace culture won’t have a negative impact, however this isn’t the case. Almost nine in 10 (86%) investors say they would rapidly distance themselves from a company if they had invested in one that was then embroiled in a workplace bullying or harassment case.

How to protect people and reputation
The true impact toxic workplace culture has on an organisation really shouldn’t be underestimated. From influencing future applicants and investors, to affecting the lives of those experiencing and witnessing bullying, problematic behaviour in the workplace often has a lasting impact on both an organisation and its people. 

With the growing skills shortages, the ‘great resignation’ and challenges retaining talent, now is the time for organisations to really invest their time into putting an end to problematic behaviour in the workplace and putting culture at the top of their agenda. 

There will never be a one size fits all approach for organisations to adhere to, however there are steps which all leaders can put in place to ensure they’re protecting their culture, their people and ultimately their reputation. 

Employees who are happy feel more valued and supported which ultimately means they are more likely to thrive in the workplace. For this reason, leaders should take the time to understand what is important to their team and ensure the right procedures are in place to help employees feel protected. 

Leaders should ultimately look to take a preventative approach to avoid toxic workplace culture becoming a problem – this could be done by implementing a reporting structure which helps give employees the confidence and support needed to feel comfortable reporting issues. 

One way of doing this is through the implementation of a reporting process or platform that  offers employees the opportunity to report problematic behaviours anonymously. The anonymity aspect of a reporting platform can help employees feel safe and can often be the difference between reporting and choosing to suffer through bullying or harassment in silence. For an organisation this means you get a true picture of your workplace issues and can get ahead of them before they become too big to repair.

The data quoted in this article comes from Culture Shift’s reputational repercussions report which can be found here

Gemma McCall is CEO and co-founder of Culture Shift @UKCultureShift and LinkedIn



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