Does the thought of going to work make you feel sick in your tummy? You may have probably caught the malaise more commonly known as ‘Toxic Office Culture’ and that just might be the culprit instead of indigestion.
Statistics show that people who work in cubicles for long periods of time may, at some point of time in their career, have been exposed to a toxic work environment. Unhappy workers, cheerless managers and a generally dismal vibe are some of the more common symptoms seen in such an office.
Kevin Kuske, Chief Anthropologist and General Manager for office furniture company Turnstone, tours the country studying small businesses that boast highly productive, well functioning workspaces. Turnstone helps well-intentioned business leaders who’ve inadvertently established dysfunctional workplaces to transform their office environments.
A stuffy, stifling work environment stands in the way of progress. So how can you improve the situation? According to Kuske, if you’re a worker in a bad office culture, the good news is “managers don’t control the office culture.” Yes, they can influence it, but it’s the workers who truly own that company’s culture.
In this brilliant article, Five Signs You Are In A Toxic Office, Kuske shares some his favorite ideas on how to transform a bad culture to one where you’ll be happy to spend 8+ hours a day. But first, you must recognize and acknowledge that your office culture is bad. Here are the signs:
1. Your coworkers behave with caution. A lack of trust and an overly cautious attitude rubs off easily, making it more likely you will act the same way. People are more creative and innovative when they can be themselves at work.
2. Employees are robotic drones. When individual personalities are shut down and everyone interacts on a safe, inside-the-box level, you won’t see a lot of energy or passion and you won’t get out-of-the-box ideas, Kuske says. If you find yourself acting this way, then this toxic attitude has spread to you.
3. Unrecognizable work culture. If you can’t figure out the work culture the minute you walk through the doors, then alarm bells should go out. A dynamic business backed by a passionate, energetic, and engaged workforce shouts at you from the reception desk.
4. There is a complete lack of fun. Fortunately this is easier to fix for an individual employee. And creating productive fun is contagious.
5. There’s no movement and little interaction. If people come to the office, go to their desk, and go home, the organization is not capturing the benefits that come from spontaneous interactions among its thinkers.
Kuske says that fixing these bad habits is easy if you recognize that the physical design of a space plays a role in bringing people and technology together. If you’re the owner, allow people to be creative.
“There are owners who want this and they don’t know how to design the office in a way that gives the team permission.” Kuske suggests opening up spaces for group interactions, and then joining some of those impromptu gatherings so that everyone knows it’s permitted.
Ultimately, it all boils down to trust. Without it, employees will not be openly creative and innovative, and your work culture will be susceptible to stagnation. What is toxic for the office is toxic for you if you work in the environment. Period.