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Does your organisation need a detox?

4 people sitting at a coffee table with a computer smiling and looking happy about getting an organisational detox.

In June 2022, a research report published by the CIPD stated that more than 6.5 million people in the UK expected to leave their jobs in the next 12 months. As we head towards June 2023, and people still want to change jobs – even in a cost-of-living crisis – it’s worth asking yourself whether your organisation is doing everything it can to retain its people.

The report says that ‘Poor leadership is a factor for many job moves.’ It’s a sad fact that lots of organisations have a poor culture – and that culture is often set at the top. This is often called ‘toxic culture’ – where people are fed up with the way they are treated, or the expectations put upon them.

In fact, I’m hearing lots of stories about people being weary with office politics and poor colleague relationships. In many cases, this isn’t helped by hybrid working, where people just avoid the office so they can avoid the people. That’s not healthy, and it’s up to the organisation’s leadership to detoxify the culture, which helps productivity, retention and recruitment.


What makes a ‘toxic’ culture?

We use the word ‘toxic’ a lot in our daily conversations nowadays. In 2018, toxic was chosen as the Oxford Word of the Year. That’s because of its use in a wide range of contexts, particularly in the case of work environments.


“The term toxic environment itself, however, has been more frequently used in reference to harmful workplace environments and the toll this takes on the workforce’s mental health. From overly demanding workloads to outright sexual harassment, many companies have been exposed as crucibles for such toxic culture this year”. Oxford Languages, 2018.


More widely, Forbes Magazine lists some of the signs that a workplace needs to take a long, hard look at its culture. These include:

·       People are overly concerned with hierarchy, reporting structures and responsibilities

·       Very formal interactions, with little joking, smiling or chatting

·       Over-reliance on policies and procedures

·       People do not speak up or raise issues that are worrying them


Is a toxic workplace the fault of leaders?

Well, yes and no. Someone has to set the culture of the business, of course – and then maintain it. People who lead by fear or have an authoritarian approach are likely to create a non-productive culture around them. They’re likely to promote others who think the same way as they do. They may also be unwilling to consider change.

So in many cases, leaders are the problem. But we all have a role to play in the relationships we build and the environment we create to work within.

For me, an organisation is the sum of its people. This is certainly true when it comes to the people you work with directly – your team members, other colleagues and your management team. By taking a positive approach to building and maintaining your own relationships, you can positively influence the culture of your workplace – whether you are in the office or working remotely.


Does hybrid working help or hinder?

Again, that depends on the nature of your team and the way you manage hybrid working. I’ve read reports and heard first hand that some people are using hybrid working to hide from issues that would have to be confronted in the office.

Avoiding people and situations may seem like a good solution – but poor relationships have to be sorted out, and the sooner the better. So if you are experiencing problems with a colleague, or you are worried about a particular situation – work out how to deal with it so that you can move on in a positive way. That applies whether you are in the office or working remotely.

Part of today’s working culture is precisely about managing teams who are working on a hybrid basis. The way you manage meetings, flexible working arrangements and team collaboration, for example, can make all the difference to how people feel about their work environment – and that in turn can have a knock-on effect on productivity.

What can you do?

We can’t change a whole organisation alone. But we can respond positively and proactively to behaviour that causes issues for us. Thinking about how we react to others, and how we approach conversations and conflict helps us to challenge the assumptions we make and take deliberate steps to do things differently.

I believe that whatever level you are at in your organisation, you can have an impact. Of course, the nature of that impact increases the higher up the organisation you are. You have the potential to be a role model, and to shape the future culture and behaviour of your organisation.

An organisational detox is easier than you think. It’s a step-by-step approach that involves everyone, focuses on listening and learning and values strong and positive working relationships across the whole organisation. And it reaps significant rewards for your success and for your people’s wellbeing.


Learn more about this topic…

You can find out more about culture, office politics and relationship building from these resources:

Practical:         Office Politics Webinar

Worksheet:     Internal relationships: Building a Strategic Plan

Blog:                Building relationships to boost retention

Video:             Astute Advantage podcast

Book:               Getting on: Making work work


Want to get started?

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