How to Remove Toxicity from your Workplace

Iread leadership articles and books often, despite being an expert myself, I still believe that I need to continue to develop and sharpen my skills for my professional life as well as bring more content to you all.

The other day I read 7 Sure Signs That Your Workplace Is Toxic by Marcel Schwantes and thought that recognizing the signs are just the beginning. But as a leader recognizing a problem is not your job. Your job is to solve the problem, so in this case, removing the toxicity. The following is some tips on how you can achieve this challenging goal.

1. Determine the level of toxicity

Determining how much toxicity is in your organization is a crucial start point. Is it throughout the entire organization, or is it one piece, or even just one person. Based on this fact, your approach to solving the problem will differ. So how to do determine the level of toxicity? First, look for commonalities or anomalies. If there are common toxic actions or trends across an organization then you will know that the complete organization is affected. However, if there is an anomaly within an organization, usually an individual acting out, then you will see that it is an individual issue.

2. Isolate the problem

Once you have determined the problem area, then you need to isolate it from the rest of your organization. You cannot allow toxicity to spread to the rest of your organization and to elevate the problem. However, in the same breath, you cannot simply completely isolate a sub-organization or even a person from the rest of the organization! No isolating means merely identifying the issue to the rest of the leadership team who have interactions with the problem area. The goal is to ensure that those who need to know, know and that they understand what to do if they witness the toxic behavior.

3. Identify the problem

The next step is when things get real, and it occurs when you confront the organization or person about the toxic behavior. When identifying the problem, it is essential to keep in mind that emotions will quickly rise and people will immediately get defensive. So to be effective, you need to ensure that the meeting or group get together is in an area where everyone will feel comfortable. Next step, is to provide actual events and outcomes are used as examples of the toxic behavior. Followed up with direct tangle results which are required to remove the toxicity from the person or organization.

4. Follow up

The final step is to follow up. No different than a project, you need to consistently to follow up on progress until you are confident that the toxic behavior is expelled from the organization. Follow up can be as formal as you want it to be through documented meetings or get-togethers or as informal as walking around and discussing with multiple employees within the affected organization. Regardless, of how you achieve it, consistently following up will allow you to realign if progress is going off track. Finally, keep in mind the goal is to remove the toxicity and get the employee(s) back on track. However, sometimes it is just not possible to have them change their inappropriate behavior and sometimes people need to be let go.

Ultimately, a toxic environment will destroy your organization, and that can occur from just one individual. From my experience, when a complete organization has a toxic environment, then this happened due to a single individual who never had the issue addressed. To not address a problem is to approve it. Sadly this happens too often. Hopefully, with the support of this article, you will now have the ability and courage to move forward and remove toxicity from your workplace!