Should you stay at work if there’s a toxic workplace culture?

24 November, 2018
A toxic workplace culture is damaging to a company and its people. Here is how to spot it, and why individuals might decide to stay.

Why you might not leave a dysfunctional working environment

Dream jobs can quickly become nightmares when you are working in a toxic workplace culture. People who are dissatisfied at work often carry their work-related anxieties into their personal life, like unwanted baggage. This affects health, relationships, and personal and professional development.

If you’re unhappy at work, should you seek a new position elsewhere, or are there circumstances in which you should stay despite a toxic workplace culture?

 

Signs your environment suffers from toxic workplace culture

Identifying the signs of a toxic workplace culture is key to deciding whether to stay or move on. Your instinct may tell you that there is something not quite right. For example, you may have suspicions that corners are being cut when it comes to product/service quality or that excuses take precedence over innovation. Or perhaps something more overt, such as being asked to misinform customers or other stakeholders.

Other more obvious signs that a toxic workplace culture has permeated an organisation include:

  • Poor communication, with the organisation unable to meet the challenges to effective communication in the workplace. If organisational hierarchy relies on ineffective methods to share messages, meaning is more likely to be lost as a lack of clarity relays incorrect information. Poor communication in a toxic workplace culture extends to ineffective feedback and lack of direction, negatively affecting individual and team development.
  • A blame culture, with people unwilling to accept accountability for their actions. This often leads to diminishing creativity and innovation. People cover up their mistakes, which hides the need for support and personal development. Collaboration may falter with employees become less willing to accept delegated tasks.
  • A lack of enthusiasm and engagement, with colleagues dreading each day and unwilling to work within a team – completely opposite to the feeling of togetherness entrenched in somewhere like Elon Musk’s team at SpaceX. Poor employee engagement is a major contributor to high employee turnover rates.
  • Dysfunction within the organisation, as highlighted in Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. Lencioni points out that dysfunctional teams lack trust, fear conflict, lack commitment and avoid accountability, and people chase individual goals rather than collaborative success.

 

Why you might choose to stay in a toxic workplace culture

If you feel you are working in a toxic workplace culture, it is time to decide whether you should continue with your role or seek a new opportunity elsewhere. However, leaving an organisation with whom you may have been employed for many years can be a stressful move to make – and there is no guarantee that your new employer won’t suffer from a similar toxic workplace culture.

Therefore, before you decide to leave your current employer, you should consider these five questions to help decide whether it’s worth staying.

1.     Do you have influence to change a toxic workplace culture?

This may depend upon your role or position within your organisation. If you have the power or authority to influence culture and behaviours, or could be advanced to a position in which you could do so, then you could make the difference to a workforce, which could be the defining moment in your career.

2.     Could staying enhance your career?

Sometimes the experience gained from working in, and changing, a toxic workplace culture can prove to be a valuable and career shaping. Looking beyond the immediate discomfort and seeing the situation as an opportunity to lean can be a way to reframe the situation and make it more tolerable in the short term.

3.     Can you can transfer to a team with a better culture?

It may be possible to transfer to a different department or team within the same organisation. One in which the culture is more conducive to teamwork and professional development. This allows you to continue your work with continuity of employment.

4.     Is the organisation serious about changing?

If there are signs that the toxic workplace culture is changing, and that the organisation is serious about making change happen, then it might be worth staying. How do you know this is the case? There are some signs, such as leaders and managers showing a genuine willingness to develop their communication and management skills, or if the organisation is looking for help to facilitate cultural change.

5.     Are you strong enough to weather the storm of a toxic workplace culture?

If you love the work you do and see that there are opportunities for personal advancement, then you may wish to stay. However, you should only do so if you are strong enough to whether the storm. You should build your resilience by making sure that you stay physically, mentally and emotionally healthy, as working in a toxic workplace culture is likely to drain all these resources.

Have your employees become disengaged with their work and your organisation? Get in touch with The Big Picture People today to discuss how our Learning Map could help redefine your organisational culture and engage your employees with your vision of their future.

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