Toxic workplaces: A five step detox

It could be argued that the rise in hybrid working means that toxic workplaces ought to be a thing of the past; however, a recent report has highlighted that problematic behaviour has actually increased as a result of being away from the physical workplace. 44% of staff surveyed said they had witnessed problematic behaviour (such as bullying, harassment or discrimination) at work, compared to 20% in 2020.

The detrimental effects that negative workplace cultures can have on employees include low morale, mental health issues and absenteeism.  29% have needed to take time off, and 42% of staff surveyed had left their job due to an organisation’s failure to combat a toxic workplace culture. Needless to say, such organisations are losing great talent and damaging their reputation.

Absenteeism has also been on the rise as three-quarters of staff state they have called in sick due to wanting to avoid somebody they have a negative relationship with at work.

A five step detox

So how can companies detox negative workplace environments? Here’s our five step approach:

1. Address the issue: Small organisations may be able to get together and discuss openly, but larger companies may need an email communication introducing the initiative to build a positive culture. Addressing the issue in this way sets a clear, public boundary between the old culture and the new one, and everyone is included in the objective of improving the environment.

2. Identify your champions: Find the naturally positive people in the team and champion them to inject conversations and situations with optimism and cheerfulness. This strategy combats negativity by contract – every time they find a silver lining in a discussion or respond to gossip by finding something positive to say about an absent coworker, they confront the culture in an affirming, positive way.

3. Find the root of the problem: Leaders need to identify and deal with the source problem. A good way of doing this is via a wellbeing audit; we have our own in-house tool, WorkWell. A survey is sent to all employees; we then analyse the results, recommend areas for attention and draw up an action plan together.

4. Bond as a team: Research shows that creating opportunities for team members to socialise increases productivity. As people learn more about each other, they grow more comfortable with each other and find it easier to collaborate, brainstorm and problem solve. Do be aware of the social dynamics though – find ways to bring anyone on the periphery of the team into the centre and make sure that introverts’ views and opinions are sought out.

5. Recognise and celebrate achievements: People need to feel appreciated. It’s hard to convince people to invest in the culture when they feel undervalued as an individual. The solution to this is simple – create a culture of thankfulness. Find ways to celebrate team wins and individual accomplishments. It doesn’t need to be a big expensive gesture – often a simple public acknowledgement will do. When people feel valued, they become more personally invested in the cultural climate.

Change won’t happen overnight, but creating your strategy and following it consistently will eradicate the toxicity and result in a motivated, productive and happy workforce.

If you’d like to find out more about our WorkWell programme, please do get in touch on 01932 874944 or email us at