Toxic behaviour is not just highly poisonous for your people but for your business too.

‘Bants’, risqué jokes, treating some colleagues more favourably than others, scapegoating, making false or elevated promises, destructive gossip, aggressiveness, micromanagement and a lack of empathy – these behaviours contaminate your environment.

Such pollutants often lead to heightened levels of workplace stress and anxiety, which soon result in reduced productivity, decreased profitability and an increase in staff turnover as loyalty begins to crumble.

Toxic behaviour also brings reputational risk. Today’s workforce is more engaged and vocal than ever before and they are acutely aware of a business’s duty of care towards its employees. Tolerating such poisonous behaviour could quickly move from grapevine gossip to the headlines.

Who’s to blame?

Leadership, or the lack of it, lays at the core of a toxic workplace. When such lethal levels of behaviour arise, it can be because the lack of leadership has allowed it to fester or because the managers are themselves the root of the problem.

People are promoted to positions of leadership because they are successful and skilled at their role, but are they equally as skilled at being a manager? Are they able to confront toxic behaviour or effectively identify if they are the culprits themselves?

Here’s how managers can take a stand:

Be custodians of your company culture – One person’s banter could be another person’s bullying. Be clear with your team about your organisation’s behaviour code so everyone understands what is and isn’t acceptable.

Stop making excuses for people – It’s easy to dismiss toxic behaviour as the trivial actions of just a few bad apples. “It’s just her way”, “he’s harmless”, “but he’s very loyal” – sound familiar? It doesn’t matter if the perpetrator is your top salesperson or has been at the business since day dot, everyone should consistently be held to account.

Reward good behaviour – All employees are deserving of the same level of support, encouragement and recognition of their achievements. Take a closer look at how you assess your team. Are you evaluating people solely on their performance against targets or are you also factoring in their contribution towards enhancing the workplace culture?

Prioritise communication – Poor communication channels can trigger toxic behaviour. Make sure you’re being as clear and transparent as possible about significant changes in your business to stop the spread of destructive gossip. Creating a feedback culture is also key. Do you have the mechanisms in place for your employees to be able to raise issues of concern before they escalate?

Trust people – Is there anything more demoralising than a manager breathing down your neck? Micromanaging can kill ambition and confidence, so empower your team by providing them with the space and psychological safety they need to make their own decisions and learn from their mistakes.

Face the fear – Confronting and addressing an employee’s inappropriate behaviour can impact an organisation, especially if they are regarded as a top performer or have a great relationship with key clients. However, this fear often prevents the behaviour from being actively challenged. The negative, long-term impact of continued toxic behaviour on your people, your business and its reputation is far more concerning than that one awkward conversation.

How do I support my managers?

Training with a third-party can be a valuable and insightful tool in ensuring managers are clear about what constitutes appropriate behaviour and empowering them to create positive workplace culture.

Tell Jane provides workshops tailored towards the needs of your business, from grasping the fundamentals of harassment, discrimination and bullying, to understanding the value of diversity and inclusion. Simply contact me by emailing to find out more.


Work in HR? Interested in preventing harassment, discrimination, and bullying at work? Or perhaps you want to learn about diversity and inclusion? Why not take a look at our upcoming seminars? Click here for more information


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