4 things you can do to change a toxic work culture


Over the years I’ve worked with companies who have been touched with the toxic work culture bug. Sometimes I’ve been an employee and at other times, I’ve been in there as a consultant helping to sort it out. It’s a terrible situation for everyone involved because ultimately it’s not a happy time. I’m sure you have heard the horror stories or perhaps you have worked for a company where you feel sick about turning up for work each morning.

Whether it’s a cultural issue which runs through the whole company, or just in a department or two, you don’t want to be involved in it. Toxicity is contagious! If you stand too close, it rubs off onto you before you know it.Toxicity is contagious! If you stand too close, it rubs off onto you before you know it

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Culture, good or bad, is rolled out and led from the top. You will see the comments and beliefs of senior management reflected in the employees. In an ideal world, from the CEO down, the leaders will ‘walk their talk’ and strong Vision and Values statements will be used as the platform. But in reality, it’s not often how it works.

Before we go into the easy steps you can take not to catch the toxicity bug, let’s investigate a little more about what the great companies do. In successful companies, every single person in the company will ‘walk their talk’. It’s not only a ‘top down’ but also a ‘bottom up’ approach. Everyone will be on board with the Vision and Values and feel accountable and responsible for themselves and their roles. You’ll find the employees highly productive and engaged.

So what’s next for you?

If you ultimately like the company you work with but don’t like some of the things that are happening, here’s 4 steps you can take to make a difference.

1. Do not get involved in gossiping about others and do not condone it. I have often walked past unacceptable conversations, interrupted and said “That’s an unkind thing to say”. It tends to be a conversation stopper.
2. Live by the 3 R’s – Respect yourself; Respect others and take Responsibility for your actions.
3. Be part of the Solution – Do not complain about something you don’t like. Be proactive about speaking up and make sure you always take a solution to the table.
4. Walk your Talk – accept the only person you can control is yourself, so lead by example.

As Mahatma Gandhi said “You must be the change you want to see happen”.

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Have you experienced a toxic work culture? How did you handle it?

Glenise Anderson

Glenise is the Chief Confidence Chick at Self Confident Women, a personal development company helping women around the world create a better life

5 replies on “4 things you can do to change a toxic work culture

  • Shauna Maguire

    Having worked in a toxic environment I think your advice is extremely sound Glenise! Although it can be very challenging to work with people you dislike, it’s not that difficult to be civil and polite to everyone around you. It can be frustrating though when management drags their feet in dealing with the person causing the toxicity – luckily I had a great team of people and we all supported each other, particularly when we felt management was ignoring the problem.

  • Kasia Gospos

    Sometimes one toxic person can destroy the entire department and make everyone unhappy. The worse when management thinks the toxic person is the good one and even promote one. Then suddenly employee turnover rise….I have seen these mistakes

  • Glenise Anderson

    Thanks for your comments Shauna and Kasia. Your comments are right on the mark and there is no doubt that management is often at fault here. When I hear stories like these I often wonder how executives justify not calling toxic employees on their behaviour. Perhaps they haven’t heard that leadership starts at the top!

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