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A Secret Ingredient In Mitigating Toxic Working Environments

November 29, 2021, 4-min. read
A Secret Ingredient In Mitigating Toxic Working Environments

No one quits bad jobs: they quit bad managers. This infamous quote summarizes and neatly delivers a lesson every manager, CEO and business leader needs to learn - bad management is toxic. Toxicity breeds company failure. The tonic? A well crafted, meaningful, supported working culture that values employee engagement.

Employee engagement - and disengagement - is the perfect metric to measure the levels of toxicity amid your team and management. Staff engage with you in a variety of ways - professionally, socially, culturally - and the most astute of modern business leaders will understand it takes careful curation to balance these aspects alongside working day-to-day.

The failure to do so results in rapid decline of services, morale and productivity. This is the apogee of a toxic workplace - a culture of bitterness, bullying, hyper-competitiveness, jealousy, nervousness, selfishness and dipping productivity that signifies a style and brand of management unfocused on developing anything even close to a healthy working environment.

Beyond the Duality | HR Trends 2022

So how do you generate a culture of support, and through that, employee engagement?

Workplace support - in whatever format you deliver it - needs to three things:

  • Targeted
  • Personal
  • Meaningful

Support for the sake of it (see the underutilization of commuter-oriented benefit systems in cities with largely remote workers post-COVID) is a sign that “support” structures have been retrofitted onto a contract or into a workplace to meet an ill-defined expectation. While this doesn’t generate toxicity, increasingly workers want to know their labor is being rewarded and supported in more meaningful, ethical and personal ways.

  • Targeted support means reducing wasteful practices, encouraging forums of staff feedback and active listening to what your people need.

  • Personal support means taking those targeted responses and putting them into action, personally, and adapting them through personalization - the supportive needs of a working mother of 1 are significantly different to a post-grad student, however to be seen to only value one over the other, ignore one, or spent an inordinate amount of time on one generates a lack of trust and dissatisfaction in your workforce.

  • Meaningful support means tying your support structures to something more: it could be tying personalized L&D to meeting career goals, providing a wellness retreat for a team to encourage team building and inter-team friendships, or simply revamping your performance management to take stock of changing expectations and idea input. Your team needs to see you want to make positive change.

Employee engagement, and managing wellness within your enterprise, is like managing a music show - there are ebbs and flows to the rhythm, but you must read the room, and adapt and perfect your offering to make sure as many people leave satisfied.

We believe that leadership-led support mitigates the rise of toxic workplaces by enshrining 4 things into your culture: Loyalty, Resilience, Health and Talent.


  • Garnering loyalty from your team is an exercise in expectation setting, continual performance management and adjusting your management style to incorporate more supportive cultures.
  • For those in leadership positions, consider the power of the Servant Leader - that of a manager or decision maker who sees it as a priority to give more to their staff than take, that actively leads by example and provides space for team members to be heard and to make decisions.

  • This sort of decision-making advocacy generates enormous amounts of loyalty, which in turn positively affects more serious, and expensive, working elements such as retention of staff and turnover.
Employee loyalty

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  • Much has been written about the impact COVID-19 has had on global workplaces. However, resilience has been an attractive mainstay quality in workplaces for decades, especially in high-stress and high-target roles like Sales, Tech and Healthcare.

  • To create resilience, you need to give your teams the tools to analyze their actions and improve their service in the face of change. Resilience is not a purchased benefit, or exercise - it’s a deeply personal mode of working and behavior that impacts almost every professional connection, line of communication and workplace decision you’ll make. This is done through a creative and personalized form of feedback, performance management and peer support.

  • The resilient teams of the now and the future will have to deal with the fallout of the pandemic for years, and in this regard preparation is key - knowledge then becomes the bulwark against any failure in the future. Empower your teams to become confident, understood and heard employees. Do that through support.


  • Health support has also changed due to the pandemic - people are under different pressures, burnout is on the rise, and your team’s connection and proximity to your place of work, and places in which you can encourage healthy practice, have been disrupted.

  • Although the term “health” incorporates a vast range of physical and mental considerations, how you develop wellness programs, or encourage and build systems of support within work, has an incredibly beneficial impact on your staff’s health, and impacts immediately on your company health.

  • So, whether health is supported through actively curating more meaningful social interactions in a time of disruption, remote work and hybrid work (which is vitally important, as a lack of social interaction increases health risks and mortality to a phenomenal degree), or through more flexible and meaningful access to healthy work benefits closer to home, there are a huge range of wellbeing support structures that positively affect the health of your team, and therefore company.


  • Business leaders in many industries are facing huge talent shortages, and demographic pipelines are not as assured as they once were. Coupled with this is the rapid digitization of industries, a lost 18 months for many millions of workers in sectors affected by the pandemic, and a rising dissatisfaction with lack of career opportunity in others.

A toxic work culture increases staff turnover, lowers productivity and stifles innovation and thought leadership

  • A toxic work culture increases staff turnover, lowers productivity and stifles innovation and thought leadership. It makes your teams sadder, less resilient, less likely to advocate for you, and less likely to work for you.

To accidentally find yourself managing or working in a toxic work environment is sadly ubiquitous and everyone will experience it at some point in their career.

However, the remedy is in action to improve employee engagement. Actively supporting staff through both the development of happier workplaces, more culturally and personally relevant support structures, and through listening to your teams. This, then, reduces toxicity, makes your staff healthier and happier, and improves your business bottom line.

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