Productivity

4 Signals That Your Business Has a Toxic Virtual Work Environment and How to Resolve Them

Avatar of Autonomous Autonomous | Mar 16, 2021
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A toxic workplace is something you should steer clear of. Why do you think this is? Any such setting can be detrimental to your physical and mental wellbeing, professional growth, and even your happiness. Is that the kind of thing you want to deal with?

A toxic workplace is a professional environment that is downright stressful, unproductive, and dysfunctional. Your coworkers may be inconsiderate, loud, and abusive. Additionally, your supervisor could be a bully, or your organizational culture is centered around money and winning.

Naturally you would not want to come on board to an organization that has all of that going, and all the red flags may not come up during your interview process.   

Working remotely has its perks, but it can become a poisonous work environment, even though you are in the comfort of your own home while working from home. If you find yourself frustrated by professional drama on Zoom, via email, or through other remote communication channels. Then you have yourself a toxic virtual work environment.

The Requirements of a Manager to Avoid a Toxic Virtual Workplace

As a manager, you must carry out your functions effectively to mitigate the potential of toxic behavior in the virtual workplace. While thriving on chaos should be one of your strongest traits as someone managing a team, it doesn't mean that the team members should exist in a chaotic state.

Effective planning and execution are your strongest tools in this regard. What are you going to do to facilitate a healthy team dynamic, so things don't go down the road of a toxic work culture? Don’t make the remote management mistake of “letting nature take its course.”

Avoid a Toxic Virtual Workplace

You can only do this through understanding the organization and your team to avoid  toxic virtual work environments. After achieving that, you can make decisions in the best interest of both. Foster an open work relationship with your subordinates, so you can understand their pain points and needs. Work to address these on an individual basis while creating time and space for team building activities.

While you can play virtual games as many other teams do, you may want to start off with more conversational activities, so team members can understand each other better. Doing so creates better virtual workplace etiquette and it can boost employee self-esteem.

Signs of a Toxic Virtual Workplace

1. Blurring the Lines of Work

Blurring the Lines of Work

One of the biggest challenges with a virtual setting and a big problem of a toxic virtual work environment is separating personal life from work. Work-life balance is challenging enough in a physical setting, but as the workspace and the office space become fused in a remote context, employees don't always get the chance to feel like an individual who is independent of a job title. As a manager, it's important that you don't feed into this rhetoric by treating your subordinates as if they are available to work 24/7. Maintain established hours within which you reach out for any work-related reason. There may be emergencies that break this rule, but don't make it a habit.

2. Verbal Abuse

Verbal Abuse

This is one of the easier indicators of toxic behavior in the virtual workplace. People often feel a greater sense of communication confidence when they are not in the same physical space. This goes double for when communication is typed. As a manager, you may notice that employees are being verbally abusive to each other's tone or word choices.

There needs to be a policy that deals with abuse. Most companies have this, and successfully eliminating this problem depends on your choice of an enforcement method. You want to achieve understanding, as opposed to driving the point home by force.

3. Electronic Monitoring

It can be hard to give your subordinates agency over the tasks they do in a remote workspace setting. However, you can end up facilitating a toxic virtual work culture by micromanaging. Using technology to aid your management efforts is no problem, but electronic monitoring reinforces the feeling that an employee is being watched.

Try to focus your efforts more on ensuring that targets are met when they are supposed to be met. Theoretically, so long as the assigned work is being completed on time, it doesn't matter what the employee may be doing at home.

One thing you should be concerned with is the presence of the right equipment. It may require you to sign off on an office furniture bulk order, including a smart desk and an ergonomic chair for those who need it. Additionally, the happiest employees feel like they are trusted.

4. Isolation

Isolation

Though team members are not in the same physical location, they should never be allowed to forget that they are part of a team. Unfortunately, many managers drop the ball on this one and allow one or more team members to feel isolated from the others. There is a sense of enrichment and empowerment that comes from feeling like a part of a bigger picture.  For long-term, it may create toxic virtual work environments.

It's your job to maintain the team dynamic using the technology available to you. One of the simplest ways to go about this is to reach out to your various team members at intervals to check on them and remind them how important they are to the organization. Additionally, setting up activities that allow the team to interact or have fun together.

Coping as a Manager

Coping as a Manager

Though you are a manager, you are human too. Dealing with consistently juggling problems, being evaluated based on the success of others, and your time being largely taken up by communication activities is not easy. For you to remain strong as a manager, you must retain your humanity as best as possible.

During your workdays, practice seated stretching and take regular breaks. At every opportunity you get, partake in the hobbies and activities that you enjoy. If you are family oriented, communicate with your loved ones as much as possible.

Once you don't get sucked into the void of a toxic virtual work environment, you can effectively steer the ship away from it. However, if the factors you must deal with get through to you in a negative way, you can become a part of the problem, rather than the catalyst that helps to realize the solution.

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