How Effective Leaders Deal With Toxic Work Environments

Lily Cooper
Professional Writing Major, College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Employees working in cubicles

Large organizations can be vulnerable to fraud and scandal at the highest levels of leadership. Companies that were once respected and admired have seen their reputations tarnished due to the actions of their leaders or other employees. Due, in part, to the prevalence of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, these misadventures can be widely shared in a short amount of time.

One factor that can contribute to scandal within an organization is a toxic work environment. A toxic workplace can lead to major issues in productivity and treatment of fellow workers. Many employees experience a dysfunctional work environment due to the actions of their peers or poor leadership. As future leaders, it is important for business students to know how to identify and remedy a toxic work environment

Find Out What Is Going on

Leaders may hear about problems within the business from managers and other employees. They can also look for patterns in the statistics, such as high turnover or abnormal use of sick days. As they walk through the halls of the business, they may notice employees are disengaged or not as joyful as they once were.

When a leader notices these changes, it is their responsibility to find out why this is they are happening. Using a method of collecting feedback, such as an anonymous employee survey, to gather information about the current work environment is a strong example of effective leadership in this scenario.

Ask for Help

Leaders can have trouble instigating change in a toxic workplace, especially if they played a part in establishing it. It is difficult for leaders to take an unbiased approach when it comes to their own business. As such, leaders who are dedicated to improving the work culture can consult with an external advisor or business coach in order to analyze the information they have collected about employee dissatisfaction. This consultant can help a leader develop strategies to respond to the problems. Knowing when to ask for help is an important characteristic of an effective leader.

Work on Communication With Your Team

Transparency is vital when it comes to building trust between a leader and their employees. These conversations may feel uncomfortable, but it is important to let employees know they are being seen and heard. A strong leader will recognize the dissatisfaction within a dysfunctional workplace publicly and share the data and strategies that are informing the intended solutions.

Leaders need to let employees know that they are invested in making changes for the better. This can allow for an open forum where people feel comfortable speaking their minds and sharing thoughts without retaliation or judgement.

Give HR a Bigger Role

Once a leader identifies the issues, creates a plan to improve them and shares the action plan with their team, it is important to include the human resources department in the process. The HR department is the front line when it comes to issues related to a dysfunctional workplace. The people in HR are trained to support employees through difficult matters. After seeking unbiased help outside the organization, effective leaders should rely on their HR department to continue making the necessary changes to repair and improve a toxic workplace.

To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s Colangelo College of Business provides business students with the tools to become future effective leaders, click the Request Info Button on this page. Our Master of Science in Leadership and Master of Business Administration are both tailored to helping our students advance in their careers. Kick-start your career with a leading-edge business degree from our student-centered business college and get started on your journey to find your purpose.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.

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