Suzanne Lucas

How to Replace Toxic Workplace Behavior With Constructive Habits

People generally respond to positivity with more positivity. A healthy working culture builds on itself through your employees’ everyday actions to create a welcoming and productive company culture. But, when workplace behavior turns sour, you may suffer the consequences in turnover, low employee engagement and unhappy clients.

Training employees on professional behavior is important, but it’s worth considering ways to improve your office culture from every level of your workforce. Here are changes you can make to turn around toxic behaviors throughout the entire business.

Toxic Management Behavior

Managers greatly affect how employees act, feel and work. Keep an eye out for these common poor management strategies.

Micromanaging

This type of management quickly frustrates employees:

What are you doing? Can you change that font? Make sure you do A, B and then C, and not C, B, and then A. You weren’t at your desk. Where were you?

Keep in mind that your way isn’t always the only way to do something. Does the font matter? It does if it’s for a marketing poster but not if it’s for an internal report. Does it matter what order an employee performs tasks? Not always.

How to fix it: Make priorities, communicate them — and then step back. Trust your employees to make decisions. Then, manage by results, not by butt-in-seat time.

Constant Criticism

It’s always possible to find something that could have done better, but constant criticism can often beat your employee down and make things worse.

How to fix it: Instead of criticizing, give feedback. What’s the difference? Feedback helps someone grow, while criticism merely tells them they are wrong. To deliver feedback, don’t focus on the person. Instead, look to fix the underlying problem.

For instance, if an employee gave a sloppy presentation, criticism would look something like this: “That was a terrible presentation. You clearly didn’t prepare for this.” Feedback would look like this: “The slides were incomplete, and you seemed flustered while presenting. Can we talk about what you need to succeed in the future? Jane can help with the slides, and I’m happy to do a run-through with you beforehand.”

When you criticize, your employee walks away feeling terrible and loses confidence on the job. Giving constructive feedback tells your employee that you have their back and are willing to help them succeed.

Toxic Employee Behavior

Managers aren’t the only ones who exhibit poor workplace behavior. Let’s look at a few destructive workplace behaviors you can fix by training your employees.

Gossip

This seems harmless until the gossip gets personal. Declare a zero-tolerance policy early on — talking behind people’s backs leads to distrust and unhappiness at work.

How to fix it: Don’t participate. Period. Teach your employees to reply, “I respect that person as a coworker and do not want to hear anything negative.” This may sound rude to some people, but it’s much ruder to share gossip.

Bullying

No one wants to work with bullies, but bullying affects 60.3 million Americans in the workplace. Employees seeking to undermine their coworkers and bosses destroy morale in the process.

How to fix it: Given its prevalence, there isn’t an easy fix, but awareness and zero tolerance for bullying create a foundation for future progress. But, don’t just say that — define bullying, and address it. For instance, bullying includes:

  • Withholding necessary information

  • Spreading false information about someone

  • Repeated negative actions

  • Power imbalances

You may think that power imbalances mean that only managers can bully, but this isn’t always the case. Is there someone in the department who appears untouchable? That’s a prime situation for bullying. If you can’t question someone’s behavior, ask why. Is it because management is scared of their response? That person is in a position to be a bully.

Bullying may be subtle, such as repeatedly “forgetting” to include someone in a meeting. It can be making rude comments and then blaming the victim for being “too sensitive.” It can also happen when managers or HR people have outside relationships with another employee and overlook that person’s bad behavior. To fight bullying, listen to all sides of a story. Look for small behaviors that don’t add up. Don’t ever excuse bad behavior with “Oh, that’s just how Chris is.”

Of course, there are more ways to negatively affect a workplace culture, and managers should be on the lookout for opportunities to make everyone’s life at the office better. Proper management can solve a multitude of problems. Good management starts at the top; if you’re the boss and you have unhappy employees, consider hiring an executive coach to help you change. Once you set a good example, your employees are much more likely follow suit.

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