The language we use with our teams reflects the culture we live in, and the basis for all our relationships. This is as true of the bonds we have with friends, families and partners as it is with our teams and colleagues. Feelings of frustration, apathy and simmering resentment in any relationship, whether that’s at home or work, invariably manifest themselves in someone’s words and behaviour, even if they try their best to disguise them.
Low engagement, high turnover and frequent absenteeism (or presenteeism) and underperformance are all well-known symptoms of a toxic working environment. And poor communication is often the culprit, since it leaves people feeling burnt out, confused and afraid to ask questions or challenge long-held perceptions. They’re likely to grow resentful of policies that don’t seem to make sense, or which contradict each other.
Negative emotions emerged or worsened during the pandemic, with many people reporting anxiety and isolation over the past two years.
Not all their feelings were work-related – but uncertain about security, poor Covid safety measures and increased workloads due to colleagues being furloughed will certainly have played their part. These factors prompted many to quit their jobs, in what was dubbed the Great Resignation, leaving companies struggling for talent.
Recognising that a department or entire workplace has become toxic is one thing but turning it around is another. A workplace culture doesn’t even have to be toxic. It could just be that people have got into bad habits, such as sending numerous emails to the same colleague out of hours, instead of arranging a meeting or call, or not taking the time to share successes.
People are, rightly, wary of false positivity, an empty compliment and meaningless corporate jargon that doesn’t address the small and not-so-small frustrations they experience each day.
There needs to be open and honest conversations, accountability and a determination to drive forward meaningful changes.
Good communication is at the heart of this – we know how important a brand’s story is for customers but it’s just as important for employees. Encouraging people to celebrate their successes, and learn from their failures, in a positive yet authentic way helps to build connections and brings everyone on the same journey.
Driving the right behaviours
Emotions drive our behavior and give authenticity to our words. When people’s emotions are harnessed in the right way, it leads to healthy behaviors and discourse that helps people to perform their job well. Every leader wants its people to share common behaviors – for us at The Access Group, these include curiosity, resilience, flexibility and accountability. We also have a caring and supportive community and promote a strong sense of commerciality, so employees understand our customers, the market and the opportunities open to us.