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7 Ways To Turn A Toxic Work Environment Around

Sujan Patel

Office culture is the lifeblood of any company, and it can easily be the difference between the success and failure of your business. Just ask your fellow entrepreneurs, you’ll hear them agree that having a great team and managing them well are essential.

That said, sometimes, despite your best efforts, you find yourself with a toxic culture that’s sprung up in your business. When the toxicity hits a team, productivity plummets and tensions skyrocket.

Here are seven ways to turn things around:

Create Your Culture Starting With Your Mission Statement

For too many companies, a mission statement is simply a platitude that’s placed on the wall and promptly forgotten. So if you want to turn a toxic work culture around, you need to start by dusting off and revising your mission statement.

Create a mission statement that’s specific and serves as a manifesto for the kind of company culture you want to have; not the one you have now. Then, invite every team member to accept the new mission and the new journey your company will be on. If they seem reticent or won’t accept the new mission and culture, it’s time for them to move on.

Bring in Positive Energy

No matter what position you’re in, from C-suite founder to entry-level team member, you affect the culture around you through the energy you choose to bring in. By focusing on solutions instead of problems, on relationships instead of politics, and teamwork instead of infighting, you can become a beacon for others to follow.

Simply “being the change you want to see” allows you to affect your company’s culture in a positive way. Of course, if you’re a leader, your influence is going to be far greater. Not only can you make it a point to bring positivity to the way you see and do things, you can also let team members who only exude negativity go before their attitudes threaten to derail your culture building efforts.

Be Willing to Invest Time

The same way a negative, toxic work culture isn’t created overnight, a new positive one won’t be either. Starting off with a bang, for instance, creating a new mission statement or calling team members together to talk about a new positive environment is important, but the real change takes time.

As a leader, you need to allow that time, monitor the ongoing change, and be willing to step in and facilitate when needed. With the investment of consistent action over time, a new culture will be born and thrive.

See Your Company Culture as an Internal Product

Take a lesson on company culture from one of the leading businesses in the digital marketing industry - Hubspot. One of the reasons Hubspot puts such a focus on company culture is that the company is trying to attract talented staff - just as much as it’s trying to attract customers.

Hubspot sees its company culture as an internal product that helps the business attract and retain the best talent in the industry - one that’s just as important as the external products built for the company’s customers. Recognizing this allows Hubspot to invest in its company culture in the same way that it nurtures customer-facing products, causing both to thrive.

If you shift your perspective to see your company culture as a product designed to attract and retain great employees, the path forward in terms of what you want to create and how to do so becomes much clearer.

Change Your Hiring to Reflect the Culture You Want

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make is hiring based on skill and expertise alone. Sarah Bird, the CEO of Moz, gave an interview where she talked how the company values affect everything - including hiring. Abbreviated TAGFEE, this value code encompasses the business’s core values of being transparent, authentic, generous, fun, empathetic and exceptional.

This value system is carried through to Moz’s recruitment process in interview questions that are specifically designed to determine candidates’ attitudes and openness, in addition to their expertise. In your own company, once you’ve clearly defined the values you want your culture to embody, shift your hiring practices to bring in people who reflect that focus.

Create a Diverse Staff and “Speak Up” Culture

Another way to shift a company culture in a positive direction is to encourage diversity - not just in ethnicity, but in life experience, opinion and other criteria as well. By recognizing diversity and emphasizing that everyone has something worthwhile to contribute, you’ll create a more positive culture that values all input.

In addition, make sure that diversity extends into the company’s leadership. If the management of a company isn’t diverse, or doesn’t embrace the concerns brought to it by the varied team that’s been built; the power of a diverse staff is less likely to have an impact.

Become an Expert at Communicating

Communicating well is a management skill I had to acquire through experience, but it’s one that’s vital to succeeding in the area of culture building. If you struggle with communication, don’t give up. It took being forced into a remote work arrangement for me to improve my communication skills, but if you’re proactive, you can overcome any challenges you face with consistent practice.

The bottom line is, if you want an excellent culture, you need to be an excellent communicator; in person, by phone, and in writing. When you can communicate well, you’ll gain respect. This, in turn, will help you to be easily understood and give you the ammunition needed to be able to drive the culture change your business deserves.

Turning around a toxic work environment isn’t easy and it takes time. However, by putting these seven ideas into practice, you’ll be well on your way to bringing important change and helping ensure the success of your company.

Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
Sujan Patel Member
Sujan writes about business, marketing, and growth. He is the VP of Marketing at When I Work a product that helps small business's owners better manage their staff. Sujan is also the author of 100 Days of Growth, an actionable Growth Hacking eBook.