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Clearing the Air When Toxic Behaviors Pollute the Office

Healthy office culture is as important as the skills, experience, and talents your employees bring to your business. Toxic behaviors and bad attitudes pollute the air. In turn, this diminishes productivity and leads to high-turnover. If left unaddressed, it can sink your bottom line and expose your business to lawsuits from employees. It's not something any company wants to deal with, but it is something that every business needs to deal with before it puts the future of the company in jeopardy.

Protect Yourself

Your onboarding materials should include a thorough and clear explanation of sexual harassment, physical/mental harassment, discrimination, bullying, and other "bad behaviors." Clarifying what is and what is not acceptable behavior is an effective strategy for keeping toxic habits from polluting the workplace. More importantly, it provides a foundation you can use to protect the targeted employee and your business when it emerges.

Take Immediate Action

While it is essential to include the potential penalties for violating company policies, they mean nothing without enforcement. It's crucial to adhere to them when an employee violates them. Whether an intern in the coffee room makes a derogatory remark, or an executive on the board makes sexually suggestive comments to a new hire, hold all employees to the same level of accountability. Consistently applying the policies specified within your employee manual will make employees think carefully before making remarks, posting on social media, or making a pass at a subordinate.

Take Ownership (& Reassert Leadership)

You are responsible for the office culture. As President Truman once said, "The buck stops here," and that here is your desk. CEOs and others in managerial positions are responsible for what happens in the company and the departments therein. When insults, sexual harassment, derogatory jokes, and other negative behaviors flourish, individuals at the top need to own it. That is the only way to reassert trust in the leadership of the company and regain the confidence of employees.

Eliminate Triggers

It is common for toxic behaviors to circulate specific events. While many are quick to point to alcohol as a primary cause, it is usually just a contributing factor that amplifies existing toxic behaviors. Whether it is the holiday party, an employee picnic, or meetings with clients in a foreign country, companies need to establish firm policies for potential triggers of negative behaviors. Employee manuals and travel guidelines should address company expectations regarding foreseeable events and situations. Specifically, those where lines can blur and actions can easily stray off the straight and narrow path defined by company policies, the law, and the customs of a foreign culture.

Create a Plan and Review Your Progress

Changing office culture doesn't happen overnight. It takes months, and even years before the air will fully clear. Companies infected with toxic behaviors should monitor their progress by conducting check-ins with affected employees and by conducting anonymous, company-wide surveys on an annual basis. This information can help you determine what works and what doesn't. Adjust your plan as necessary until you have an office culture that allows employees to focus on doing their jobs. When employees don't have to worry about dodging racist remarks, sexual harassment, and threats of violence, their productivity and work will improve. With it, the reputation of your company will rise.

Contact Greenlink Payroll at (480) 385-2525 for more information about the steps you can take to promote a healthy office culture. Our human resources professionals will answer your questions and help you identify the most effective strategies for keeping your business on course for a successful future.

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