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How Employers Can Avoid Creating A Toxic Work Environment

Raise your hand if you ever realized (or repeatedly realized) that your workplace was actually a toxic environment that was doing more harm than good for you. 

No, I’m not referring to toxic chemicals and hazardous waste. I’m referring to needlessly stressful jobs that breed unrest and are full of negative elements. The jobs with once-amazing colleagues that ended up losing their spark in no time. Jobs with high burnout and turnover. Have you ever wondered how that work environment even became toxic in the first place?

Elements Of A Toxic Work Environment

There are some elements of toxic work environments that are obvious, such as the feeling of being chronically stressed out, or a feeling of resentment from being overworked. In toxic work environments, it’s also common for people to become victims of office gossip, which can sometimes lead to bullying. In fast-paced environments, the boss can sometimes be a hothead that regularly ruins the self-esteem of others. 

Then there are the other toxic practices that we all know of, but never quite verbalized. Insufficient communication is a leading one that leads to grief due to lack of clarity around projects, the feeling of not being heard, and the discomfort that stems from passive-aggressive communication. Office cliques also have a way of creating a feeling of exclusion and hostility from a group of people. Then there is bad leadership, which led to the saying, “You don’t leave a job, you leave a bad boss.”

But what if I told you that there is one way employers can avoid creating a toxic work environment, so long as it’s done early on? The trick is to enforce employee empowerment.

Employee Empowerment: The Key To A Positive Work Dynamic

According to the American Society for Quality, employee empowerment is defined as “the ways in which organizations provide their employees with a certain degree of autonomy and control in their day-to-day activities. This can include having a voice in process improvement, helping to create and manage new systems and tactics, and running smaller departments with less oversight from higher-level management.”

One of the distinguishing factors of employee empowerment is that it provides employees the means to make important decisions and helps ensure those decisions are in fact correct. When done right, the end result would be a significant increase in their output and a better work/life balance for the employee.

Any company can figure out their own unique way to enforce employee empowerment, such as Steven and Luke Acree, the founders of digital marketing agency ReminderMedia. Here’s what they have to say about their outlook on building up their employees:

“Two times a month we have a sales council meeting where we come together as a team and hear from our employees. We go over their ideas for process improvement, and how we can be better overall as a team. This has produced some amazing results for our processes. We would say that the most impactful outcome of it all is the strengthened trust, and alignment in terms of the mission for each individual, team, and of course the company as a whole.”

Empowering employees do more than just train them to make better decisions. It also establishes trust and an inherent sense of empathy and camaraderie with other empowered colleagues. It helps employees figure out what their limitations are before they burn out, and allows everyone, including upper management, to show appreciation when deserved.

When enforced correctly, employee empowerment by nature prevents situations in the workplace from escalating, thereby making toxic work environments virtually nonexistent. 

In the words of leadership consultant Warren Bennis: “The manager maintains, the leader develops. The manager relies on systems, the leader relies on people. The manager counts on control, the leader counts on trust.”

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