Boost Staff Morale and Productivity at the Workplace by Getting Rid of Toxic Staff Behaviours

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Are work relationships between colleagues souring due to gossip? CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, Nicholas Goh, offers a tip sheet on toxic staff behaviour and how managers and employees can turn this around by bringing about a positive and cohesive work environment.

Are work relationships between colleagues souring due to gossip?

Toxic staff behaviour, such as the dislike for one’s boss, dislike colleagues of other departments or office politics, is one of the main causes of low staff morale and unproductivity, Forbes suggests (Hall, 2011).

CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, Nicholas Goh, offers a tip sheet on toxic staff behaviour and how managers and employees can turn this around by bringing about a positive and cohesive work environment.

Toxic work behaviour is commonplace in most offices, and is very damaging to the morale and productivity of employees. Instances include colleagues putting each other down in public without hesitation, or when the work flow is disjointed as morale between team members is low due to distrust and fractured relationships.

As poisonous as negative behaviours are, employees are unaware of the detriments such bad actions bring about in the workplace.

What can be done to raise awareness of these behaviours? How can leaders of today foster a positive work atmosphere?

1. Recognise Symptoms. Uncover Causes.

Spotting the symptoms is the first step to resolution. Constant vigilance is important for early detection of any trouble brewing.

a.    Calling in ‘sick’

One of the most common causes of employee absenteeism is to avoid the bullying and harassment that comes with toxic work behaviour, states Forbes. Absenteeism, a form of counterproductive behaviour, arises from low work morale.

It impacts organisations from all sectors, with the heaviest loss transpiring in the professional occupations (US$24.2 billion per year), finds the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (Healthways, 2013). The report also connects high employee engagement with high productivity, and likewise, low employee engagement with low productivity.

Absenteeism also drives office morale much lower, as other employees have to clear the backlogs of their absent colleagues, resulting in heavier workloads, more work-related stress, and eventually, burnout.

b.    High employee turnover

Employees resign when job unhappiness overwhelms their reasons to stay in the company. Some leading causes of this unhappiness are when employees do not feel a sense of ownership over their work, and when they are not properly recognised for their achievements and hard work (Barrett, 2011).

A high employee turnover impacts companies on financial and productivity levels tremendously, as the Saratoga Institute evinces that the average internal cost of turnover ranges from one to two years’ salary.

Besides money, time is another resource that is affected adversely as constant retraining needs to be carried out for new employees. (Saratoga, 2006).

2. Employees, Be Heard! Employers, Listen!

How can employees dissatisfaction and low morale be reduced at the workplace? What are the ways to alleviate perpetuating toxic work behaviour?

Here’s how I think both employers and employees can play their part to foster a positive work atmosphere.

  •      Listen and Be Heard

a.    Interview your employees

The Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations finds that empathy has a strong correlation with “fostering altruism and compassion” (Emmerling & Goleman, 2003).

As a manager, sitting down with a disgruntled employee, Joanne, to suss out the reasons for her job dissatisfaction, is one of the best ways to show that you care. Employer-to-employee interviews boost the employee’s sense of belonging and work morale, as they feel that they are heard, and that their feedback matters.

b.    Cease and Desist

The next part to listening is taking action. If Joanne had faced some workplace discrimination, it is up to her boss or manager to pinpoint the issue at hand and act boldly to strongly discourage behaviour of such sort.

Employers have the right and power to dismantle “an individual’s or group’s counterculture comprised of unwanted agendas, attitudes and behaviours that pit individuals and cliques against other workers”, says Forbes.

The onus is on the employers to establish a culture that does not tolerate negative office politics.

  • Recognise and Empower Peers

A recent study by Accenture reports that 31 per cent of the American workforce states that ‘lack of recognition and appreciation’ as a reason for leaving their current job (2013).

a.    Say “Thank you”

Thanking a fellow colleague is an easy gesture to greatly improve the work climate. Gallup-Healthways has found a strong correlation between a positive working environment and increased productivity and corporate profitability.

Besides peer-to-peer recognition, top-down recognition in the form of words of gratitude, rewards, bonus time-offs or off-in-lieus, and celebratory meals are excellent ways to show appreciation and boost workplace morale.

b.    Raise intrinsic motivation in employees

The effects of bonuses, raises, and rewards are limited and only work in the short-term. A sense of belonging to an organisation would be a form of an intrinsic award.

If Joanne felt like she had an opportunity to do what she did best, she would most likely feel that she belonged in her job and she was appreciated for her work.

Accenture found a correlation with a higher sense of belonging at the workplace with increased productivity and lengthened employee retention (2013).

About the AUTHOR

Nicholas Goh is the CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, a leading global content consulting services company. Verztec assists companies around the world to design, develop, localize and publish their global communication messages in over 100 languages across various channels. For more information, please visit

VerztecLearning, the Learning Solutions division of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd, is a leader in innovative blended learning and online courses for soft skills, leadership skills, IT skills, business skills and project management skills training.

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