How HR can reduce toxicity in the workplace

HR leaders can take measures to identify toxic behaviors in the workplace and make the office environment a more positive place.

If you found out that your office building was home to a harmful cloud of radon, your organization would take steps to protect your employees from it. A similar cloud of negativity hangs in the air around toxic employees, causing others to be less productive and more likely to leave the company.

HR leaders can take measures to identify toxic behaviors in the workplace and make the office environment a more positive place.

Understand the cost of toxicity

Toxic employees don't just make others feel uncomfortable - although that's bad enough - they also have a significant impact on the company's bottom line. Toxic behaviors such as gossip, bullying and procrastination can reduce team productivity and increase rates of absenteeism.

According to a study conducted by the Harvard Business School, avoiding toxic hires saves companies an average of $12,500. Over the long term, the cost of toxicity can increase exponentially. In fact, nearly half of the surveyed employees intentionally spent less time at the office to avoid incivility, and 12 percent left their jobs.

Listen to concerns with empathy

One of the key ways HR can help workers impacted by toxic behaviors is to listen to their concerns. In 2018, the Society of Human Resource Management conducted a survey of HR leaders and found that 58 percent dealt with toxic emotions on a daily basis. A large portion of the respondents said that empathetic listening was an important skill to have.

"Listening is an art form," says Christopher Sauls, Business Development Manager for Beacon Hill's Pharma Division in Raleigh-Durham. "Often we do not take the chance to step back and hear what is concerning to our employees. Taking a moment to actively listen empathically helps with morale and in minimizing stressors that can contribute to a toxic work environment. This is a practice that I work to employ every day."

Sometimes, workers just need someone to listen and acknowledge their feelings. They may complain to their spouses at home, but only someone else in the organization can really understand the situation. By listening to employee concerns, HR leaders can make more informed decisions about how to correct the behavior causing distress.

Toxic behaviors can make other employees feel stressed out.

Actively look for toxic behavior

While HR leaders don't have to be watchdogs always hunting for incivility, they can monitor for toxic behaviors by gauging worker concerns. In addition to speaking with employees directly, HR can work with leadership to identify trends that indicate toxicity.

For example, if managers begin to notice a trend of employees calling out of work or coming into the office late, they may want to investigate why this is happening. Engaging stakeholders at every level of the organization can provide a clearer picture of what's happening.

Lead efforts to set boundaries

In many cases, toxic behaviors occur when employees overstep personal boundaries. Gossip disrespects an individual's right to privacy; procrastination breaks down the barrier between work and personal time; bullying makes everyone feel uncomfortable or even threatened.

Toxicity can also occur when employees don't respect their own personal resources. For example, employees who overwork themselves can become stressed out and anxious - emotions that will inevitably spill over into other facets of work.

In both cases, HR can help to establish healthy boundaries between employees as well as between employees and workloads. Helping everyone understand workplace expectations sets the foundation for a healthier environment.

Develop educational materials

HR can't be everywhere all the time. To increase compliance with office etiquette standards, HR leaders can develop informational content that helps workers to identify the warning signs of toxicity and take steps to correct the situation. In the case of procrastinators and over-workers, these employees may not realize their behavior is affecting their coworkers. A training session, pamphlet, infographic or another piece of content can help them identify these troubling behaviors.

Many indicators of these kinds of behaviors can appear during the hiring process. An expert recruiter can help your organization avoid hiring toxic employees in the first place. To learn more, reach out to a consultant from Beacon Hill Staffing Group today.

This content is brought to you by the Marketing Team at Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

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