A work environment that does not involve stress is unlikely to exist. No matter how much they loved their job and were smartly organized, the days when you get nothing and differences of opinion and dissatisfied customers are a reality. And research shows that work and caring about finances are the two most common stress sources in adults.
Running a company in a job description has to deal with stress, mainly because it requires taking responsibility, which can be a source of stress. But how do you know which pressure is normal and belongs to your role, and when it comes to the tax you pay unnecessarily to a bad and negative work atmosphere?
When we think of something that would fit the description of a toxic work atmosphere, it can easily be associated with incompetent or lazy workers who are frequently absent from work or with bad working conditions.
However, the truth is quite different: dealing with the toxic working atmosphere is a pain in those expensive marble and glass offices on Fifth Avenue and the production plant of a factory.
Here are some key indicators that such a work atmosphere is present in your firm. In a way, they can be seen as phases that employees often go through before they burn out or leave.
1. Employees who constantly complain
Initially, the complaints that employees will send you will not be open and direct. They start by first complaining to each other, or to customers, to the management, to the point of complaining about every little thing in the company, without calling the problem by its real name.
Complaints have a good and a bad side. The bad thing is that you expect employees to deliver solutions to you, with no problems. Instead, they come with problems that you are not sure about – at least not until you recognize what they care about – what you could do about them. In this way, productivity, efficiency, and, therefore, your entire company are affected. Focusing on the negative can be a rather dangerous source of destructiveness.
The good thing about employees who complain is exactly that – that they complain, that they still haven’t given up, because regret is also a way to fight against something. Not an effective way and certainly not the best, but still a way to change the situation.
2. Retired employees
Compared to employees who complain, one step forward in the destructive pattern is employees who retire: who do not ask for feedback and do not give it, who address you as rarely and as little as possible. The grievance phase has stopped – or never existed – and you now feel as if some of your employees are already one foot outside your firm.
When there is no open and direct communication between you and your employees, or whenever its efficiency and openness are compromised, count on having a problem in your company. Specifically, consider that there are very good reasons for this, and a negative work atmosphere can be one of them.
In addition to individual differences between people, and therefore differences in the way they will react to the same situations, it is important to note the following: when employees estimate that their complaints will bear fruit, that is, that you will listen and respect them, they will complain. When they estimate that the complaints will not lead to any results, they have already given up on the idea of fighting it. Then they see you as part of the problem, not someone who has a solution. And then they are – really – already one foot outside your company.
3. Decline in efficiency and productivity
The hostile work atmosphere, over time, must reflect not only efficiency and productivity but also professionalism and work ethic. If there are problems, quarrels, and disagreements among your employees, then how is it possible that these same people, who are fed with negative energy for eight hours a day, can be efficient and cordial at the same time? Maybe I can, it is certainly not excluded, but the energy that will be invested in it is far greater than if it were not spent on two tracks – “survive” the working day and be productive and professional.
Withdrawal from their tasks and avoidance of responsibility is a sign that the situation is alarming. Furthermore, it can develop and even escalate very quickly. It is also fragile, so even one person can disturb it, and it will take a long time to re-establish balance. That is why it is important to observe and listen to your company’s working atmosphere – to react to the problem in time, ie to identify its cause and approach the solution.
The work atmosphere will have a negative impact on your company in terms of results and finances and on all other parameters, including job satisfaction and, ultimately, on you and the health of your employees. The price is high, which is why we deal with the question of how to prevent and treat a toxic working atmosphere in the following text.