How to Identify Toxic Employee Cliques in Your Business
Is it possible that the productivity and morale of your team suffering at the hands of toxic employee cliques? An uncomfortable workplace atmosphere or a downturn in performance might not lead you to think first of toxic employees. You might question the competency of your leadership or your own business strategy first, but a negative evolution within corporate culture can have a surprisingly erosive impact—often going unnoticed until substantial damage has been done.
At a most basic level, the formation of toxic employee cliques inevitably leads to a loss of profits, stalling workplace momentum, operational issues, and a rise in staff turnover. At the more insidious end of the scale, toxic culture can culminate in discrimination or workplace harassment complaints, and all of the potential legal and reputational complications that can follow.
Of course, every organization wants to see its employees get along. Strong working relationships can foster fantastic morale and cohesion when those bonds are healthy. So, how can employers tell the difference? Here, we will examine some of the tell-tale signs that a toxic employee clique may be impacting your business, and how professional workplace investigations can help you transform corporate culture for the better.
Negative Narratives Become Currency in the Workplace
While feedback is a vital progression tool within any company, a constant negative undertone is a strong indicator that toxic employees may be steering the dominant narrative within a workplace. That chronic negativity may manifest as gossip, backstabbing, or rumor spreading, or it may appear in more passive-aggressive forms—such as body language, sarcastic tones, disrespecting boundaries, cynicism, victimhood, and undermining others.
While team members of course need to vent on occasion, holding workplace narratives within a negative frame leaves no oxygen in the room for motivation, objective seeking, or innovative thinking. Toxicity tends to nourish itself, relegating the needs of others and of the company itself to the wayside.
A Tight-Knit Group Shows Signs of Ostracizing Others
Those who are embraced by a toxic employee clique may not notice the need for alarm bells immediately. However, for those left on the outside, the impact of a workplace clique’s presence will be felt immediately. Those excluded will begin to feel undervalued, dissatisfied, and demotivated. Meanwhile, the root cause of lost productivity and a dropping bottom line can remain elusive for those who don’t know the warning signs. While workplace friendships can be immensely valuable, they should never come at a cost to colleagues’ well-being, or company success.
Toxic Employee Clique Behavior Slides Into Bullying
While some forms of bullying are obvious, workplace bullying can be surprisingly hard to spot—especially when toxic employees resort to covert or manipulative behavior. While hostility to colleagues can take place within the workplace, cyberbullying can become pervasive before management even notice a blip on the radar. When toxic employee cliques demand conformity, both those within and outside of the group can start to avoid creative thinking, out of fear or reprisal. This waste of professional talent means less innovation within your business, and less work satisfaction for your employees.
Toxic Employee Cliques Thrive When Left Unaddressed
Failing to call out toxic employee behavior inevitably validates and emboldens the clique mindset, while further disempowering those outside of that unhealthy inner circle. Valuable and committed employees may well seek a better work environment elsewhere, while new recruits will be vulnerable to getting sucked into quickly-entrenched patterns of damaging behavior. As the performance of others begins to suffer, those within a toxic clique may respond competitively, showcasing their comparative strength and actively sabotaging co-workers.
Tacking Toxic Employee Cliques Head On
Many leaders and company owners don’t consider the value of corporate investigations until a major incident occurs. However, conducting a thorough investigation at the first point of suspicion—or even as a maintenance strategy—can allow organizations to nip toxic behavior in the bud before it begins to spread. Tactics such as breaking up cliques by asking employees to take on projects in different groups, or reworking—and re-training—codes of online and in-office conduct can be effective.
However, it is essential to understand the scale of the problem in order to resolve it effectively. The impartial assistance of an expert investigator can be invaluable in revealing an honest picture of the current corporate culture within your organization. Learn more about the Corporate Culture Audits and Corporate Investigations offered by Lauth Investigations. Not only will we help you uncover the true state of play, but we will aid you in drawing a road map towards the type of workplace culture that will allow all of your employees to shine.