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The best way to deal with a negative work environment

Ever experienced working in a negative environment?

Happy employees are the key to having happy customers. A 2019 study by Glassdoor proves that employee satisfaction is linked to customer satisfaction in a certain way. Happy employees translate to higher productivity and better customer service. 

This is mostly seen with industries with high client-facing tendencies, such as in retail, tourism, and real estate.

Yet, as companies become increasingly competitive, some of them miss out on checking their employees’ welfare. Some bad work practices get ignored until it grows and embeds into the company culture.

Dealing with a negative work environment is a way to maintain employee satisfaction and retain customer loyalty. 

What is a negative work environment?

A negative work environment refers to a toxic environment created either by employees, the management, company culture, or the job itself. 

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A 2017 article once listed a breakdown of activities an average person spends throughout his lifetime according to years. 

Per statistics, out of almost 80 years of existence, a person spends an average of 13 years at work, with an extra year of unpaid overtime. Around 328 days, meanwhile, are spent socializing and spending time with friends.

13 years could be a long time spent at work. What more with this pandemic, with people working longer than ever? The longer work hours on a remote setup should be enough to push companies in making their employees more comfortable and satisfied at their work.

Employees tend to leave a company with a negative work environment. This has cost global businesses around $220 billion for the past five years alone, according to studies.

What is a negative work environment?

Effects of a negative work environment in an employee

Having a negative work environment could take a toll on the employees’ productivity, health, and welfare.

A negative environment causes stress to a worker, which they tend to take outside of work. A domino effect then takes place, largely affecting their relationships and personal lives. This usually triggers them to leave the company, job hop, or switch to another career.

What’s more, a toxic environment decreases employees’ productivity. As mentioned, a company is supposed to harbor efforts within the management to make their employees productive and motivated. 

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Falling short on this aspect implies consequences on both costs and company reputation to potential talents.

Signs of a negative work environment

Employers could still be shortsighted in monitoring and maintaining a positive environment between their teams. 

Not everyone can spot a negative environment at first. However, it can easily grow and spread even in most employee-oriented organizations.

A negative work environment can manifest both on the employees and the company itself. The following signs indicate that something needs to be done about a business’s culture..

Signs on the company

Workplace negativity usually comes from unchecked company culture. They might be harboring the following signs:

High turnover

Having a high turnover is most unusual for companies worldwide. 

If an organization has a high employee turnover and (suspiciously) active hiring window, this could indicate that something is wrong with its management or culture.

Lack of potential for employees’ growth

Most employees aim to grow with their company and develop themselves over time. Admittedly, some jobs are considered stepping stones in developing both hard and soft skills for their preferred careers, which is considered natural.

What’s unusual is an established or stable company hindering the growth of its workers. 

This can be manifested by employees rendering long work hours, reaching exaggerated quotas, and performing tasks beyond their current pay grade.

Lack of proper internal communication

Each team has to properly communicate with each other for a whole company to work, especially on a certain project. Managers have to check on each of their teammates’ performance and reach out to them for any positive or negative feedback they have. 

This goes the same with employees. They should have the freedom to give feedback on solving any problem within a project or improving their processes.

Teams lacking transparency and communication can reflect in the overall company performance and customer satisfaction.

Signs of a negative work environment
Signs of a negative work environment

Reports of inappropriate actions

A company can have a “good” reputation as its facade and have shady actions internally. 

Employees could face issues such as workplace bullying, harassment, and exploitation that could drag their physical and mental health down. Worse, these reports get downplayed or ignored by human resources and the management.

Nobody wants to be the company to experience a massive employee walkout because of this.

Bad leadership

Mainly, all of the signs listed above can be rooted in bad leadership and management practices. 

Being in the upper management or executive position does not warrant leaders to treat their people poorly. Bad leaders could harbor negative attitudes towards their employees. 

It shows through little actions such as giving them the cold treatment to major ones such as grabbing the credit for an employee’s hard work.

Signs on the employees

The signs mentioned above could unknowingly reflect on the employees’ physical and mental health. Here are some of the signs to watch out for:

Severe burnout

It’s common for employees to complain a bit about short weekends and a few bad days at the office. However, constantly experiencing dread to get up in the morning and work could be a sign of burnout.

While most companies avoid having employee burnouts as much as possible, some have been neglecting it.

Office gossips and rumors

A simple chatter is enough to engage with coworkers. However, spreading rumors and gossip around can be destructive, especially among peers.

Engaging or being a victim of office gossip is a serious sign of a negative work environment. Not only does it destroy peer connections, but it can also affect the target’s health and credibility.

Too much competition/low engagement 

It’s natural for employees to sometimes be highly competitive. Though, in a negative work environment, employees are pitted to do extreme measures to always reach the top. 

This includes working longer hours, being the boss’s “favorite,” and sabotaging their teammates at worst.

At the same time, low employee engagement indicates that employees could be experiencing severe burnout or fear of speaking out.

Getting overworked

Getting overworked usually causes severe burnout, as mentioned above. This is usually rooted in employees having too many workloads, quotas, or deadlines to worry about.

Taking work problems home

Lastly, employees should not be taking their work problems home or throughout their personal lives. 

Most people tend to romanticize or look this up as a normal fleet. However, taking work problems home can be a serious indicator of a negative environment caused by either the company culture or employees themselves. 

How one can deal with a negative work environment

Both the management and the employees should make a move in maintaining a positive work environment for everyone. The following are some good tips on how everyone can deal with a negative work environment.

  • Review company policies. One of the reasons for having a negative work environment could be related to the implemented company policies. The management is responsible for reviewing their policies and checking what should be improved, modified, and updated.
  • Evaluate the leaders. The leaders of the company should embody the company’s mission and vision at work. Evaluate the leaders and management through exit interviews of past employees to gain an insight into their performance.
  • Initiate stress-relieving activities. A Zoom happy hour helps employees relieve stress after surviving a week of deadlines. Let employees engage in a simple get-together or virtual activity they can all enjoy.
  • Ensure healthy competition among employees. A team should learn how to collaborate and empower each other, not drag other employees down. Set realistic goals for each employee and give a hand to a teammate who falls behind their quota.
  • Avoid initiating or participating in office gossip. As much as possible, steer away from employees who initiate office gossip. Rather, report them to the management or a team leader to handle this situation better.
How one can deal with a negative work environment

Staying positive in a negative work environment

As someone directly affected by a negative work environment, you have to keep your head held up and stay positive throughout a workday. Doing the following advice may help you get through your environment.

  • Find people that feel the same way. It’s important to keep a set of friends or confidantes who you can talk to about your situation. Find someone who feels the same way and check on each other often.
  • Stay focused on your work. Try some mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing and listing work tasks to help you focus.
  • Practice work-life balance. Always maintain a strong work-life balance. No matter your workload, make sure to check on yourself, set your weekly capabilities, and don’t let work get in the way of your personal relationships.
  • Speak up. Do not be afraid to speak up, especially when the negative environment affects you greatly. However, always be respectful and mindful with your words despite the negativity you received.
  • Know your worth. Lastly, always know your worth and know when enough is enough. Give yourself time to look for better opportunities and plan your next steps ahead.

In the end, avoiding a negative work environment should be a two-way move. 

Employees should cooperate and be civil in dealing with their coworkers, customers, and the company the way employers should keep their workplace employee oriented. 

This can help increase their customer satisfaction since the company’s level of care will translate to their employees

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