A toxic workplace can significantly impact a company’s performance level and stunt future growth. In fact, a recent study shows that toxicity in the workplace is costing businesses more than $223 billion. This fact alone should be alarming to any business leader, but it’s also safe to say that a poor workplace culture can lead to reduced workplace morale and a decline in productivity.

To make matters worse, many leaders within these organizations are failing to recognize the signs of a toxic workplace within their own companies. Unfortunately, when left undetected, this toxicity will spread like a poison and can ultimately destroy a company’s ability to remain competitive. It’s vital that companies not only recognize problems within their own workplace culture as soon as possible but that they take action immediately.

What is a toxic workplace?

Wikipedia defines a toxic workplace as an environment with “significant drama and infighting.” The reality, however, is that this level of toxicity in the workplace isn’t quite so noticeable until it has infiltrated deep within the company. A better definition might be “a workplace environment that significantly disrupts the worker’s ability to perform.” No matter how you define it, nearly 38 percent of employees say they decrease the quality of their work in a toxic work environment and 12 percent have left their jobs as a result of a toxic workplace.

toxic workplace culture

Keep an eye out for signs of a toxic workplace

The good news is that there are several signs of a toxic workplace you can look for to determine if there might be a problem within your own work environment.

1. High turnover rates

One of the first signs that there might be a problem in the workplace is an increase in turnover rates. There are, however, a lot of factors that can cause turnover rates to spike. So, it’s important to take a deeper look into what these rates really show.

For example, compare involuntary and voluntary turnover. High levels of involuntary turnover could be a sign of a poor hiring strategy. However, if there is a significant increase in the number of employees leaving on their own accord, it’s time to find out why. Is this high turnover limited to a certain department or employment level within the company? Are exit interviews showing a common concern among former employees? The answer to these questions may give you a starting point for identifying problems within the workplace.

2. Reduced workplace morale

Unfortunately, the absence of high turnover rates doesn’t dismiss the fact that you still may have a toxic workplace environment. In fact, there’s a growing concern that unhappy employees are not necessarily looking for the exit door. According to one of our studies, only 35 percent of workers state that they are looking for new jobs, despite the fact that just 21 percent feel engaged in the workplace.

What does this mean? It ultimately means that many of these disengaged employees aren’t leaving, which in itself can lead to a toxic workplace. These potentially toxic employees can destroy workplace morale. Track production rates and absenteeism levels within the company. Any significant change in these statistics could indicate a reduction in workplace morale and be one of the signs of a toxic workplace.

3. Little to no employee recognition

When was the last time you gave your employees real, meaningful recognition? If studies are any indicators, it may have been a while. A Gallup poll reveals that only 30 percent of the employees surveyed had received recognition in the last week. This lack of recognition can damage both quality and performance. In another study, 82 percent of employees said they wish they received more recognition for their work and nearly one in five said “horrible” when asked how their company or manager is at recognizing them. Also, let’s not forget the fact that companies that invest in social recognition are twice as likely to improve individual employee performance across the board.

You can take a great step in reducing the risk of a toxic workplace environment by investing in employee recognition and rewards. It’s important to create a recognition program that is easy-to-use, ties to company values, and offers a point-based rewards system. Frequent and meaningful recognition can help your company build a culture of recognition that has the power to improve not just productivity rates, but also employee engagement, workplace morale, and retention rates.

4. Poor communication

When communication between management and employees break down, it can wreak havoc throughout the workplace and easily create a toxic environment. The problem is that leaders don’t always recognize that they have a communication problem. Some signs of poor communication in the workplace include employees’ failure to understand expectations, workers unsure of company goals and values, and difficulty implementing new programs or processes.

If a toxic communication gap is plaguing your workplace, it’s time to take action. Make communication and transparency a priority. Start by using newsletters, workshops, or company meetings to share company goals, achievements, and values, and take the time to review employee expectations. Make this a practice that encompasses all company functions. Remember to highlight the company’s overall mission and values to remind employees of their work’s purpose and impact, even toxic employees.

5. Employees fear giving feedback

Do your employees fear giving feedback? An easy way to answer that question is to ask yourself when the last time employees provided you with honest, meaningful feedback was. Do they tell you when there are problems in the workplace? Do they offer ideas and solutions? Are some of your best employees leaving without telling you why? The answers to these questions can be quite revealing.

The truth is that it all boils down to trust. Do your employees trust that they can be honest without retribution? Do your employees trust that you will actually listen to what they have to say? Do you encourage your employees to provide feedback and make it easy for them to do so?

The solution is to develop a comprehensive employee feedback program that not only makes it easy for employees to express their opinions and concerns but also encourages them to do so. This is just the first step. You must also develop an action plan; this is extremely important given 90 percent of workers say they are more likely to stay at an employer that takes and acts on feedback. It’s crucial that you let your employees know you are listening by taking next action steps.

empty chairs toxic workplace company culture

If you detect any of these signs of a toxic workplace, don’t hesitate to take steps to repair the damage. The longer you wait to fix the problem the deeper this toxicity will dig into your company culture. Instead, take steps today to reverse the effects of a toxic workplace to ensure your company remains healthy and productive for years to come.

Are you looking for new ways to improve your workplace culture? Learn how to take the employee experience to the next level by accessing our webinar recording.

Read more: