By Brandy Doggett
Project and Implementation Manager
Many of us have experienced a truly toxic work environment and hopefully made the transition into a healthier culture. There are plenty of articles and self-help books that discuss toxicity in the workplace. While topics such as “how to fix a toxic work environment” and “how to survive in a toxic culture” are prevalent, there are seemingly fewer resources for leaders on how to embrace and foster relationships with staff transitioning from those toxic work relationships into more positive ones.
Many toxic work cultures include micromanaging, distrust of staff, suffocation of freedoms, and sometimes even demeaning behaviors. When employees leave this type of culture, it is likely that it will take time for them to adjust to their new, healthy work environment.
One may ask, “how do I create a relationship with employees transitioning from these types of environments?” Here are some basic tips to consider:
1. Build rapport through similar experiences Do not use this as a time to throw a pity-party but do let them know that you have experienced poor leadership at some point in your life. This reminds employees that the toxic situation was not specific to them and that, as a leader, you can have empathy for the situation they exited.
2. Recognize their worth Acknowledging a job-well-done will create trust and confidence that previously was situational. Valuing their expertise and recognizing that they have something to contribute will allow employees to blossom in their new role.
3. Encourage asking for help If employees know that you do not play the blame game, but rather evaluate situations in an unbiased and professional manner, they will more willingly ask for help when a resolution is needed than hide an issue for fear of retaliation.
4. Remind them it is okay to breathe Even after leaving a suffocating environment, employees may have forgotten what it is like to have their wellbeing matter. Let them know that needing time off for a doctor’s appointment or being late due to a flat tire will not negatively impact their employment.
Next time you hire a new team member who is a great fit for the job but seems reserved or unsure in the workplace, be compassionate toward the situation they may have experienced. If you are already fostering a healthy work environment, providing them with needed support will likely be second nature. Establishing a trusting, healthy culture will create loyalty that no amount of money can compete with.