Detoxing a negative office environment 

Here, David Price discusses how to defuse conflicts and promote a harmonious working environment.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to the creation of a toxic work environment, from disputes between co-workers to a lack of communication and support. There is often an underlying component which can facilitate negativity in the workplace, and that is an individualistic nature, where competition is rife and colleagues are willing to step over each other to get what they want.

Such toxicity in the work environment isn’t just limited to larger organisations either. Built up tension, animosity and a lack of trust also occurs within smaller businesses. A majority of the time, these feelings and behaviours surface from an increase in stress and pressure from a fluctuation in new projects. While the addition of new business for any organisation is positive, if the environment is already negative or the increased pressured is not handled in an appropriate way, it can be detrimental to how successful a business will be moving forward.


A solid foundation for employees often begins with a strong managerial structure. Employees look towards their management team for guidance, support and as a beacon of knowledge for what the business expects of them. In the absence of this however, this foundation can often falter or even crumble.

As role models for the business and its employees, managers should create a culture where individual contribution is valued, in conjunction with positively reinforcing teamwork and collaboration. Encouraging these aspects of work life equally will not only help employees be responsible for their output, but it will also teach them to resolve issues with their colleagues, while working productively as a cohesive unit.

Management should also be advocates of internal communication, facilitating the staff-management-staff triadic interaction. Without clear channels of communication, employees will find it hard to develop meaningful relationships with their colleagues and management, encouraging a sense of isolation in the workplace and as a result impeding the quality of work produced. In all, managers hold the responsibility of implementing a structure, which not only improves business productivity, but also makes working for the company a rewarding experience.

Physical environment

There are certain variables within the workplace that may seem small and harmless, but that can actually have a serious effect on workplace morale. Issues such as too much clutter, not enough space, poor lighting and constant noise pollution can be extremely distracting and frustrating for employees. If this is a continuous factor in the office, employees may very well become a product of their environment, mirroring the disarray of which they work within.

All work and no play

We all know too much work can be bad for us sometimes, yet this understanding seems to fall by the wayside when business as a construct is the sole focus, and employees become forgotten entities. Regardless of our position within an organisation, maintaining a positive work-life balance is a key measure in retaining a healthy and balanced attitude towards our work.

Coming into work and sitting at our desk, staying glued to our computer screens is not a productive way to work. After a while the mundane nature of this process begins to ware on our mood and even our levels of physical health. Not to mention it increases the likelihood of developing a highly unsocial and cold workforce, which can have a negative effect on business, particularly in client or customer facing environments.

As an employer try implementing fun into tasks throughout the working day. Don’t let meetings become a one man show. Encourage active participation, idea generation and allow employees to bring something different to the table. It is also important to celebrate a win, whether this is securing a new client or successfully completing a gruelling project. Try something small such as delivering dessert or fruit baskets, organise a staff event or provide employee with an hour early finish. Not only will employees feel appreciated for the work they contribute, but it will help rejuvenate and encourage them to continue working hard.

David Price is managing director of Health Assured.

Further reading on managing staff

David Price

David Price

David Price is CEO of Health Assured, a part of the Peninsula Group.

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Managing Staff

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