Hybrid Workplace

5 Toxic Workplace Signs to Watch For

5 Toxic Workplace Signs to Watch For

As the Great Resignation continues to loom over many organizations and teams adjust to the new hybrid workplace, it’s more important than ever for managers to focus on employee morale. According to recent data from the MIT Sloan Management Review, a toxic workplace culture is the number-one predictor of employee resignation. In fact, the average person is 10 times more likely to leave a job due to workplace toxicity versus not enough compensation.

Hybrid teams have the unique hurdle of learning how to adapt to both in-office and remote work. This is no simple feat, and the transition can be difficult. This makes it even more critical to maintain a positive, healthy workplace culture that makes all team members feel valued and empowered. 

No one sets out to create a toxic workplace culture (at least, we hope not!). But that's the tricky thing: it can happen without you even realizing it. That's we’ve pulled together a list of the top five toxic workplace signs to watch out for as a leader.

What Is Considered a Toxic Workplace?

Before we dive into toxic workplace red flags, let’s start off with a basic definition. A toxic workplace is an environment in which employees find it challenging to perform their roles or advance in their careers. This is due to a chronically negative atmosphere created by their supervisors, coworkers, or the organizational culture as a whole.

Recent data indicates that, while 38 percent of employees have noticed less toxic workplace behavior since transitioning to hybrid, 49 percent still feel the amount of toxicity is still much the same as before.

5 Warning Signs of a Toxic Workplace and Culture

1. Proximity Bias in Favor of On-Site Employees

As unintentional as it may be, it’s easy for leaders to slip into the trap of proximity bias — the tendency for managers to favor team members who work the closest with them. In a hybrid structure, this means the employees who come into the office more frequently tend to receive more preferential treatment, promotions, and growth opportunities compared to their remote colleagues. 

Proximity bias is a sure way to destroy morale — this undue pressure to be visible can lead to competition between colleagues, eroding team cohesion. To combat this pernicious influence, make sure you and your team members are adhering to your company’s new hybrid schedule as closely as possible (no extra in-office time) and take care to divide your time equally among your direct reports.

2. Not Enough Time Off

Everyone deserves a break, especially after everything we’ve been through over the past two years. But in the age of remote and hybrid work, it can be hard for your employees to unplug — especially your hardest-working team members. Case in point: In a survey of 2,000 U.S. workers, 50 percent would rather have unlimited PTO than a higher salary. However, while unlimited PTO is ideal in theory, a toxic workplace culture will deter employees from using that time off. 

As a manager, you have a responsibility to ensure your team has sufficient work-life balance — not only by leading by example but also by ensuring your employees are taking enough PTO to properly rest and re-energize. So whether your workplace offers unlimited or limited time off, make sure you look at how many days your employees are actually taking off each year, not just how much PTO they’re promised on paper. And when they do take vacation time, discourage the rest of your team from pinging them so they have the opportunity to fully disconnect from the office.

3. Distrust or Micromanagement of Employees 

Seeing is believing — or at least that appears to be the case in the workplace as more and more organizations make headlines about mandating RTO plans to make sure their employees are “actually working.” In today’s hybrid workplace, such policies as limiting remote work or employee surveillance only breed a culture of distrust, causing workers to feel stressed and anxious.

In the new post-pandemic environment, working remotely at least part of the time has become not just a nice-to-have but what employees expect. As a Future Forum poll reveals, “Flexible work practices are now deeply ingrained and valued, and expectations are not budging. Seventy-six percent of employees want flexibility in where they work, and 93% want flexibility in when they work.” After two years of evidence that remote or hybrid work doesn’t hinder productivity but can even enhance it, a company culture that doesn’t welcome a hybrid schedule is sure to be interpreted by employees as a sign of distrust and a disregard for their work-life balance.

Do your part as a manager to instill a culture of trust and advocate on behalf of your team members for a flexible and surveillance-free work environment. Examples of companies that have fully embraced flexible working include GoDaddy and Doist, which have both embraced asynchronous working hours to accommodate employees with other obligations such as childcare. Fully remote Close doesn’t even require a minimum number of work hours but focuses instead on weekly deliverables.

4. Lack of Recognition for Employee Contributions 

The Achiever’s Engagement and Retention Report found that over two-thirds of employees think their relationship with their manager would improve if their contributions were recognized more often. However, more than a third of those employees do not feel valued at work, and one in five agree this lack of appreciation fuels disengagement. The solution is a no-brainer — show your team in meaningful ways (with actions and words) just how much their hard work matters. A sincere “thank you” for a top-notch performance, notable improvement, or loyal commitment to the organization can do wonders in terms of boosting morale and counteracting a toxic workplace.

Looking for easy ways to share accolades? Lattice has the ability to give colleagues public feedback that can be synced to a Slack channel. We have a slack channel at Scoop called #kudos, which allows everyone in the company to see when someone is given kudos for a job well done. Not only does an acknowledgment like this matter to the individual employee receiving it, but it also sends a message to the entire organization that their hard work will be recognized — and not just by management.

5. An Ineffective or Unclear Approach to Communication

The final toxic workplace sign is also one of the most prevalent on hybrid teams — poor communication. With employees scattered across numerous locations or even time zones, open, seamless communication can be a major challenge in the hybrid environment. Examples of poor communication include lack of proper digital workplace communication tools, leaving key stakeholders out of meetings, or failing to pass on vital business updates to team members. This can result in misunderstandings, feelings of isolation, and lower productivity. Hybrid teams do best when they practice overcommunication, a policy that ensures everyone is on the same page with clear expectations, transparent information, and insightful feedback.

The First Step Is Recognizing a Toxic Workplace

A hybrid structure comes with definite perks — flexibility, healthier work-life balance, and minimal office commute, to name just a few. However, if you’re not careful, a toxic workplace and culture can infiltrate the hybrid work environment, leading to disengagement and attrition. Toxicity is not inevitable, though. When you know the red flags to watch out for, you can take the necessary steps to strengthen your team culture. It will require intentionality and taking responsibility, but that’s what strong leadership is all about.

Kate Walsh

Get started with Scoop

Connect with our team and see how Scoop's platform can empower your hybrid organization