New Leaders in a Toxic Office: Restoring Order and Employee Trust

There will always be challenges new leaders face when taking over a new department or joining a different company. From learning the ins and outs of a company’s culture to embracing different methods and policies that create the new organization’s professional makeup. However, sometimes the most unexpected and overwhelming challenge new management faces is the uncertainty of entering a toxic office environment. Moreover, if the negative environment is caused by disengaged or disgruntled employees, it could have a costly effect on the high performers in your office. In cases like this, your star employees may have to pick up a larger workload, causing burnout and eventual turnover. The following signs are indicators of this type of workplace:

Signs of a Toxic Office Environment

  • High Employee Turnover
  • Disengagement
  • Low Company Loyalty
  • Distrust of Leadership
  • Negative Office Talk
  • Employee Dissension

If any of these signs are present in the office, you could be entering a toxic situation. In circumstances like this, it’s important for the leader to step up and establish order, trust, and employee loyalty. If you are moving into a new role, consider these steps to ensure a successful succession and establish a new, healthy work environment.

Listen and Seek Answers

When organizations hire an outsider, employees may feel a lack of trust or overall acceptance of the new leader. To ensure you put your best foot forward, it’s imperative to allow time to understand your new employees and the company culture that is in place. Allow for open communication and take an inventory of the situation at hand. Learn how employees interact with one another. Try to listen and look for cracks in the organization’s armor. Find what causes dissension or disagreements. Whether through observing or having one-on-one meetings with staff members, getting to the heart of issues is the first step in being able to fix the situation.

Sometimes, strife and struggles exist between employees and upper management. Whether with a misunderstanding or through deep organizational issues, the only way to fully understand where your new company is, you need to be willing to listen to all sides involved. Confidential surveys, for example, are great tools to find out how employees honestly feel due to the anonymity of the platform.

Allow for Conflict Resolution, Organizational Healing

Before a new leader makes drastic employment changes, it may be prudent to try to work through the issues in the office. Conflict resolution programs and HR-employee relations meetings may help all parties express concerns and desires, leading to organizational healing. In some cases, hiring an outside consultant may help facilitate these meetings to ensure an unbiased approach to conflict resolution.

Cut Ties and Move On

There are times when a person or group of people are the cause of dissension and negativity in the office and there is no possibility of conflict resolution. If you find that this is the current situation, it may be time to cut ties with those causing issues, regardless of tenure or place in the company. Though these are not ideal decisions, sometimes it is best for both parties to end their professional relationship and go their separate ways. Not everyone fits in with all company cultures, and by trying to force an unhealthy situation, you may cause more issues with your employees.

Restoring Order and Reestablish Culture

Restoring order requires establishing—or reestablishing—a set corporate culture. If the people in an organization don’t embrace the set of values and mission of the company, then the organization opens itself up to costly issues. Research the company and discover its original foundation and speak to other leaders and long-tenured employees to get their views of the company’s original values and mission. If you find that the company has a strong foundation, but its employees have lost the vision, then reestablish the original mission. Turning the company around may be as simple as advocating and promoting the values of the company to create employee buy-in.

In other instances, you may find there isn’t a strong foundation or the old values don’t line up with a positive future vision of the company. This may be an opportunity to create a new set of values, mission statement, and vision for the organization. If this is necessary, consult employees and leaders to determine what best reflects the quintessence of the company. Be simple, yet direct. When creating values, ambiguity isn’t helpful and may cause more cultural issues in the future. You want to be sure everyone is on board with both where the company is going and what it wants to represent to the internal and external community.

When entering a toxic work environment, new leaders have the exciting opportunity to turn around an organization and create a strong foundation. By following steps to work through issues, a healthy work environment could be right around the corner.

What have you done to build a positive work environment? How have you dealt with signs of a toxic environment? Let us know in the comments section below!

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2 Responses to New Leaders in a Toxic Office: Restoring Order and Employee Trust

  1. Johnny Mooring November 5, 2019 at 8:06 am #

    Great read and a tough pill to swallow sometimes, but toxic work environments do have a negative effect on the better employees/leaders.

    Thanks for sharing

  2. Summer Aulich-Benford November 10, 2019 at 10:56 am #

    Toxic work environments absolutely have a negative effect on the high performers. It leads to distrust, low morale, and most definitively, burnout. I work diligently to treat everyone as a “10” (John Maxwell). If you treat someone like a 10, you’re more likely to receive the same or close treatment in return. Unfortunately, this method doesn’t always work. Some individuals are so caught up in the toxicity or engrossed in contributing to the toxicity due to their own inadequacies/ lack, they have no desire to see things differently.

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