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Signs of a Toxic Workplace

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

A manager who is able to recognize symptoms of a demoralized staff can take action to improve the situation. Be on the lookout for these indicators:


Have you noticed an upswing in people calling in sick, heading out the door as quickly as possible at day’s end or skipping out on social events? It could be a sign that workers aren’t happy. Get to the heart of the problem by interacting with team members individually and in small groups. When your employees trust that you are concerned about their well-being and success, they may offer insight.

Workers are afraid to make decisions

“If you find a large group of employees, all of whom are afraid to make decisions about the smallest issues, you can bet that there has been toxicity in the workplace,” says Alan Guinn, CEO of The Guinn Consultancy Group. His solution: Encourage staff to voice opinions. “Some concerns can obviously be address or changed, some can’t—but all can be listened to. Sometimes, simply verbalizing is enough to help.”

Unacceptable behavior

Every workplace has some tension, but Guinn notes that consistent disregard for the rules, rude behavior and impatience to the point of shouting or expressing unhappiness to customers are all indications of a toxic workplace. He suggests calling a brief meeting if you see this behavior, because “it allows you the opportunity to use this as a teaching situation, while reminding the other employees where their principal focus should be directed.”

A rigid social structure

Pay attention to how your staff interacts. In a healthy group, members generally mingle. If you get a sense of cliques forming or certain individuals either being excluded or not wanting to join the others, it may signal something is brewing. Take the lead by joining one group one day, another the next and generating conversation.

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