8 Ways to Identify a Toxic Workplace

StrategyDriven Diversity and Inclusion Article | 8 Ways to Identify a Toxic WorkplaceContinuing a career in whichever field you choose is one of the largest parts of everyone’s life. This entails that most individuals spend almost, if not more, time at work than at home. Though seemingly difficult, what can make it even more strenuous is having a workplace that doesn’t make your life easier but rather harder, a toxic workplace, if you will.

A good workplace will make you feel seen, accomplished, and overall satisfied with working there, whereas, working in a toxic workplace will have many side effects on your mental and physical health, as well as your work output, and so on. Below you will find all the signs to look for when working in a work environment that may be toxic without you even knowing it.

Employee Sickness

The first sign you will notice of a toxic work environment is physical symptoms within yourself. These symptoms arise in multiple ways including burnout, fatigue, or even illness such as chronic migraines, weight loss due to multiple ailments, and even depression. If you find yourself calling in sick and having an overall negative mood, it may be time to reflect on a workplace change.

Chronic Cronyism

If you notice, your work colleagues and superiors all know each other a little too well. When a manager hires from the same homogenous circle of individuals, be that from family or friend circles, it becomes a case of cronyism. This means not only is the workplace extracting potential exterior high-performers but also creating a homogenous work culture that is unsustainable.


Small talk regarding guests or business partners is expected, but when small talk becomes gossip and gossip becomes overly personal within a workplace, it turns into an unhealthy partnership with colleagues. This can lead to strenuous collaboration on work projects, internal conflicts, external altercations, and so forth.

If you find yourself or your colleagues complaining to each other too often, the underlying issue is usually dissatisfaction with something within the work environment or maybe in their personal lives.

Antisocial Tendencies

Silence is often an indication of struggle and discomfort within a workplace. If your colleagues aren’t engaging with each other, nor is anyone’s body language positive, it can be a result of a prolonged decline in workplace morale and interpersonal relationships at work.

Another symptom of antisocial behavior is combativeness towards peers. If you feel you are being challenged too often, it is a telltale sign of toxicity within your work environment which can also affect your confidence and morale.

Lack of Confidence

Morale and confidence have already been mentioned, but there is another layer to workplace confidence which is being able to challenge ideas in a healthy manner. Being terrified of your superiors isn’t a healthy way to work since everyone is supposedly on the same team and is trying to find new and creative ways to move forward, which is something that cannot be done under scrutiny.

Lack of Growth

Growth equates to mobility. When looking for jobs, employees search for opportunities for growth within their workplace and personal careers, and if a company is unable to provide that, it may be a sign of a work environment that isn’t personally beneficial for you, which may even fit under the “toxic” terminology. It is important to create environments that promote growth.

StrategyDriven Diversity and Inclusion Article | 8 Ways to Identify a Toxic WorkplaceLeadership Problems

Bosses come in all shapes, sizes, and attitudes. Sometimes a disagreeable boss is the byproduct of a previous negative superior, or sometimes people just aren’t meant to manage workers in the first place. There are two extremes to this spectrum: either your superior is very passive and doesn’t communicate enough, or they micromanage everyone’s every move.

Try looking for signs of a narcissistic boss, such as a lack of empathy for struggling colleagues, exclusively talking about themself, taking advantage of situations and people, and so on.

Blurry Boundaries

A workplace is meant to run with organization, not chaos. If you find your team doesn’t have set goals, roles, or boundaries put in place, it might be time to start questioning whether the environment is one that you wish to be a part of. Clear roles must be given to each member.

About the Author

Russell Ridgeway is an American writer based in Budapest, Hungary. He writes in business, tech, and fashion as well as creative fiction. You can reach him by email ([email protected]), or on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.

Build a Strong Workplace Culture With These Quick Tips

StrategyDriven Corporate Cultures Article | Build a Strong Workplace Culture With These Quick TipsBusiness owners know that satisfied employees lead to a more profitable company. Creating a cohesive company culture takes a well-developed plan, organization, and teamwork. When you define your corporate philosophy, you give your teammates specific goals and expectations. Your employees feel appreciated, and they strive to meet goals. Valued employees are more productive and stay longer. There are many ways to build a corporate identity. Here are some ways to make a positive impact.

Know Everyone’s Job

Many employees feel frustrated and believe that management creates procedures in a vacuum. Do not implement new policies without feedback from the teammates performing those tasks. As CEO and Executive Chairman of DaVita Kent Thiry established “Reality 101.” This program required all new executives receive the same training as frontline teammates. Knowing the daily challenges helped management understand how to implement procedural or policy changes.

Define Values

Creating a mission statement is an important step in defining your company culture. Mission statements communicate your purpose to employees, management, and customers. Common values in mission statements include:

  • Improve the environment
  • Respect diversity
  • Create a workplace of trust
  • Encourage creativity
  • Expect excellence

Examine Expectations

Define your overall corporate goals. Review each position in your organization and determine how each teammate can help achieve your objective. As with any planning strategy, make sure your goals are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based. Recognize your teammates’ accomplishments and challenges. Manageable goals are key to success.

Redefine Hiring Procedures

Traditional hiring techniques rarely identify the ideal applicant for your company culture. Build interviewing teams from all levels of your teammates. Have prospective colleagues ask questions to help understand the candidate’s personality and motivation. After interviewing, have candid conversations with everyone to make the best hiring decision. Some questions in a cultural interview are:

  • Tell me about your ideal day at work.
  • What qualities do you think are important for this position?
  • How do you handle work-related stress?
  • Describe your ideal work-life balance.
  • What do you think will be the biggest challenge in this position?

Review Benefits

Reexamine your company benefits package. Make sure that employees’ needs are met effectively and efficiently. Create surveys to ask employees what benefits they enjoy most or would like added to the package. Consider low-cost benefits, such as flex time.

Change It Up

Review your mission statement and cultural identity when you experience new challenges or exponential growth. While it may seem counterintuitive to change what has been successful, your business goals have probably changed, and how you achieve them will also. Use your SWOT analysis to evaluate external opportunities and threats and guide your company into the future. Changing your culture is not something to be taken lightly, nor should it be done quickly or frequently.

A thorough understanding of the impact you want your company to have on your employees and the environment is important to building a strong company culture. Once you define goals, you can implement the steps needed to strengthen your company from the inside out.

Successful Company Culture at Work: What It Really Takes

StrategyDriven Corporate Cultures Article |Company Culture|Successful Company Culture at Work: What It Really TakesThe world of work has changed dramatically in the last eighteen months, and as we head into a new year, there will be many companies who are looking to bring their employees back to the office or at least look for ways to improve their working culture.

Building a good company culture is not as easy as ordering a bunch of dim sum and drinking green tea, so companies must ensure that they take steps to understand what type of culture they want to foster, and then make sure that they build a company culture that is suitable for the company.

Build Motivation

While many people think that money will motivate you to work harder, it is not just about cash; it is also about your career, fulfillment, and purpose.

When asking the question ‘What really motivates people?’ you would think that putting money first was the answer given by most people.

However, most business researchers will say that money is not the most important motivator, the top three motivators are usually

  1. Achievement and recognition – A large percentage of people say that they would work harder if they got recognition through a raise or bonus.
  2. Liking your job – making the job worthwhile or enjoyable to be in is almost as important as money.
  3. Recognition – from bosses, colleagues, or teammates for good performance and effort done in the job.

Why Is Company Culture Important?

So what is company culture? A culture is a set of values, norms, and behaviors that are widely shared and accepted by the people within the organization.

The old adage “culture eats strategy for breakfast” is never truer than when you look at some of today’s best-known companies.

They have been able to create dominant company cultures that are so strong that they can eat up many other aspects of an organization where there may be strategies or ideas that could be great on paper but end up being poor practice in execution.

However, when you have a great company culture, it is much easier to attract top talent and get people to stay with your company. Talented employees are attracted by a sense of purpose, feeling valued, and getting the support they need to do their job well.

With a great culture, employees are more likely to be engaged in their work, they will recommend your products or services to others, and they may even do some word-of-mouth marketing for free on social media which can be great for your business.

The Three Main Parts Of Company Culture At Work

A company’s culture can be broken down into three main groups: Customer Culture, Organizational Culture, and Corporate Culture.

Customer Culture

Great customer culture is important for any business that wants to ensure that it has happy customers and can give them excellent service. Customer culture is something that a company should concentrate on from day one.

If a company first concentrates on deeper relationships with its current customers, then it is much easier to attract new ones.

A bad customer experience tells the world not just about your products, service or brand, but also about the type of company you are as a whole if customers are not given the support they need.

A few ways that companies can improve customer culture include:

  1. Customer service training: Get everyone in the organization to take part in the same training so that they know how to have good customer service.
  2. Empowered employees: Ensure employees are empowered and are able to help customers when they need it, even if this means going beyond their job description.
  3. A strong brand image: Make sure that frontline staff are empowered and know how they should deliver excellent customer service within your culture and brand image. This is something that needs to be emphasized at every level within the company and to be regularly reinforced through all media communication channels.
  4. Findability: Make it easy for customers to find your business and use your website. For this, it’s best to find an affordable SEO services to handle your search engine optimization, and keep your website on top for search rankings so customers can find you easily.

Organizational Culture

This is the part of a company culture that is aimed at the employees. Organizational cultures are based on key elements which can be generally separated into behavioral and cognitive factors

For instance, behavioral factors are things like rewards and achievements which help to motivate and give employees a sense of belonging within the organization. They can include:

  1. Rewards – both internal and external rewards are important, along with bonuses, cash prizes, and gifts for achievers, but also training opportunities and promotions can be valued as an achievement.
  2. Recognition – ensuring that everyone is valued and gets recognized for their contribution to the company is vital to having a great organizational culture.
  3. Support – everyone needs a bit of emotional support and encouragement when they are working, so having a good support network within the company is vital to ensuring that employees want to work harder.

Corporate Culture

Corporate culture refers to the company as a whole, not to individual employees. Corporate culture can be about core values, beliefs, and attitudes which are shared by all the employees in an organization. It may be about how managers work with staff or other external parties, or it may also cover things like relationships with clients and suppliers.

A good corporate culture can help you sell your products more easily because it is based on the company’s values, beliefs, and attitudes.

Should You Focus on Positivity or Creativity?

This is an interesting question, and it is something that companies and managers will have to debate long into the future.

There is no doubt about it, increased employee happiness has a positive effect on economic returns. So has creativity been given short shrift? Or should managers focus only on creativity when it comes to motivating employees? Is positivity more important or should we just stick to business as usual?

We have all seen many examples where people have demonstrated creativity at work by coming up with new ideas, new products, or new services. They know how good their products are, they are confident that they can sell them, and they can get the funding they require to start their business. However, in today’s competitive world, it is not enough for your ideas or products to be great, they also have to be profitable or you will not make any money.

Creativity can be a barometer of employee engagement, but it is not the only thing that matters. It’s easy to come up with ideas and pitch them internally, but in order for your good idea to turn into a profitable product, you need to work hard at turning it into a reality that your customers can enjoy and use every day.

This will require a lot of hard work on every level of your business from the CEO down to the junior members of staff.

Leading From The Top Down

For many companies, their brand image and culture are based around the top management. It is often those at the top who are most effective at communicating to staff how company values and policies should be acted on by everyone.

The top managers must be seen to be leading from the front so that employees are inspired to do a good job, as well as being rewarded accordingly. This will make them better at their jobs and more satisfied which will, in turn, lead to a positive corporate culture that attracts talent into your business.

When it comes down to it, the best way for a business leader to motivate people through their values is by communicating them clearly with all members of staff. For this, it must be communicated through a good culture (as mentioned above) as well as through training courses and performance evaluations.

Statistics indicate that recognition and rewards based on performance can have a positive impact on employees which will help to improve their work.

This may seem like a cliché, but your employees need to know that they are valued and have an important part to play in the company.

They will not just perform better, but they will feel good about coming to work every day because they know they are making a difference. You can build your business around them so that you get what you need from your team without much effort.

Interpersonal Aspects of Leadership

Interpersonal leadership refers to the relationship between leaders and their employees.

Relationships between leaders and the people that work for them are very important as they impact how good an employee is at their job, how much they are motivated, and how effective they are at doing their work.

A good leader understands the needs of their people and knows how to involve them in decisions that will help the business to be more productive.

Interpersonal leadership is essential to a company’s success, but it is not something that should be taken lightly. You need to see your employees as partners, as co-workers, as people who are performing a job that you need them to do.

Creating a Conducive Work Environment

Your employees are the backbone of the business. Even with great ideas and business plans, nothing can get done without your team. That is why providing them with a place to work that is a conducive work environment helps to ensure that they can do their work in a much more productive and effective manner. How can you create a work environment that is effective, without having to raise costs? Here are some things to think about.

StrategyDriven Managing Your People Article | Creating a Conducive Work Environment

Remove bad vibes

If there are any employees who are getting into ‘trouble’ with their coworkers on a regular basis, then they create some unnecessary stress and unnecessary tension in the workplace. This can impact more people and stop them from doing their job as they would like to. So it is important to step in as management when this kind of thing happens, to give them enough warning so they can adjust their attitude, and take steps to deal with the issues. When it comes to hiring new people, look for people who will be a good fit for the role, but also fit into the culture of the business and existing team. A mix of personality and skills is a must for new candidates.

Incorporate branding into the workspace

We all know that when employees are at work, they will also be thinking about other things, and doing some other things. They might need to take a personal call, book an appointment on their lunch break, or deal with a personal issue when getting on with their workload. Which is why having some branding in the office can make a big difference. When the theme of the business and the brand runs throughout the work space, it can spark creativity, and helps give employees a focus when working. They only have to look around and see a custom flag or brand colors on the wall to remember where they are and what they should be doing. Simple things can make a difference and help your team to work more productively.

Use technology

It is so important to look at and harness the power of technology in the workplace. It can streamline what you are already doing, and improve things like management, cash flow, and other aspects of the business that can be prone to human error. Technologies and collaboration tools so cost the business money. They also need to involve some learning, which is why some businesses can be shy to use them and embrace them as much as they could. The costs associated will pale in comparison to the benefits that can be gained, so that is an important thing to think about.

An effective and productive work environment for your team is one that is not just rewarding for your team and the business, but one that is also safe. Look for ways to make the office a safe space to be, and that can help too. People aren’t going to stay working with you if they are just working in an office space that is full of accidents that are waiting to happen.

How to Keep Your Team Agile and Aligned Under Pressure

StrategyDriven Management and Leadership Article | How to Keep Your Team Agile and Aligned Under Pressure
As a leader, you are constantly trying to maximize the magical effort to effectiveness equation (a.k.a. efficiency). You can see this play out in your daily operations and ultimately in the P&L. However, there is an intangible asset that is very difficult to quantify — but without it you cannot ultimately succeed. This asset is, of course, alignment.

Alignment matters because it is an amalgamation of understanding, agreement, buy-in, engagement, empowerment, and accountability.

It amazes me how few leaders understand how to harness, measure, leverage, and ultimately achieve true alignment behind their strategies and objectives. Too many leaders assume that just because they have spoken, their teams are all on the same page with them — and everything will proceed from there. Achieving true alignment takes a significant allocation of effort. But there is a direct correlation between the extent of alignment and the results achieved.

Therefore, it is in your best interest as a leader to focus more on achieving, gauging, and calibrating alignment than almost any other executional activity. The good news is that achieving alignment is more science than art — meaning that there are tools that work nearly every time in getting people behind an idea, strategy, or mission. Below, allow me to present three of my favorites:

1. Define and Drive organizational culture. Culture is the glue that holds an organization together. It’s often the reason behind why people choose to stay with your company over jumping ship to a competitor. As a leader, it is your role to create, foster, and harness culture against organizational objectives. Conduct focus groups, one on one’s, and surveys to get a strong grip on the current state of your business culture. Then define a desired state for the values and behavior you expect to see on display daily, and embody them in everything you do.

Once you are well on your way towards your desired cultural state, you need to then define your business’s hedgehog concept. This is time very well spent because it takes your underlying culture and applies it to specific business problems. By deriving the intersection of three key questions: what are we wildly passionate about, what can we do better than anyone else, and what drives our economic engine, you set a direction for people that is easy to align with. Ask the three questions at all levels of the organization, calibrate the responses, and then package the inputs into an easily digestible reason for organizational being that relates to the majority of your enterprise. Then you can focus organizational attention on how you are doing, not on what you are doing — or even worse, why you are doing it.

2. Don’t just communicate, connect. When you give a presentation on your business strategy, key priorities, and other initiatives, how often do you check (either via polls, surveys, show of hands) what people understood from your communication, what they are taking away, and whether or not they agree? Many leaders are scared to ask these types of questions because they don’t like being second-guessed. Still, it’s better to be second-guessed than to be zero-followed! Taking the time to gauge the degree to which key messages are landing, as well as whether the audience is aligned, is probably the most important investment you can make as a leader.

Once you know where your participants are on a given issue, the next step is to connect the dots for them. Do the hard work of helping them see what you see and understand why you are making these choices. Allow them to question, build on, and enhance your ideas. And finally, move forward, together.

3. Keep it very simple. It is relatively easy to stick to one road, drive the speed limit, buckle up for safety, and arrive at your destination both on time and with all passengers on board. Once you start introducing shortcuts, detours, scenic routes, and bypasses into the mix, you are almost destined to lose some people along the way. No one (besides Forrest Gump maybe) meanders their way to success. You pick a destination based on the best available information (expected weather, road conditions, permitted speed), calculate the mileage, gas expense, and time to arrival, and then start driving in as straight a line as possible until you reach your desired location, or in this case desired mission, goal, or objective.

Leaders who jump from highway to highway, seemingly without rationale, are leaders who lose the power of an organization primed and focused on achieving results. You have to know when to forge ahead, when to change course, and when to abandon ship — but at each inflection point, the more important concept to remember is that you need to reengage the enterprise when change is afoot, and never assume that people know the key why’s and what’s and how’s behind the new direction.

About the Author

Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams available for purchase in ebook or print on Please follow him on instagramtwitterLinkedIn, and/or his website for more information and engagement.