The State of Workplace Culture in 2020

Research conducted by HR.com and sponsored by EVERFI.

An alarming number of HR professionals report that their organization's workplace culture is toxic and that negative behaviors are common. In fact, the majority of survey respondents said that their workplaces are negative and toxic or, at best, neutral.

Toxic workplaces don't just result in negative employee experiences—they negatively impact the bottom line. They make employees less productive, drive higher turnover rates, and make it difficult to recruit and retain top talent, but it doesn't have to be this way.

Organizations that focus their compliance training on culture-building are more likely to report positive, non-toxic workplaces. So what's the takeaway for HR? Prevent harassment, bullying, and discrimination by teaching employees the positive behaviors they should engage in every day, not just the harmful conduct to avoid.

“Billions of wasted dollars. Millions of miserable people. It’s not a warzone—it’s the state of the American workplace.”

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.
SHRM President and CEO


Explore the Causes of Toxic Workplaces

As determined by 500+ survey responses from HR professionals.

Negative Stress

Stress is all too common in both work and home life, but when this stress isn't mitigated appropriately, it can have detrimental effects on your company's workplace culture.

Stress can lead to various upstream activities that eventually lead to more egregious—even illegal—activities, such as bullying, discrimination, and even harassment.

We surveyed HR professionals:

  • 54% agree that negative stress is prevalent in their workplace.
  • 52% agree that their organization is negative and toxic or neutral.
  • 46% agree that there is a lot of toxic behavior in their organization.

Respondents agreed that colleagues are often:

Bullied
Discriminated Against
Harassed

Respondents state that employees don't feel safe reporting when they have:


Experienced Toxic Behavior

Witnessed Toxic Behavior

Bullying

Discrimination

Harassment

Leadership Skills

Organizational leaders lack several critical skills to support positive cultures. Although most managers do listen to the concerns of their employees, many do not seem equipped to go beyond listening to take action and create a more positive impact on their employees.

Our data showed a powerful connection between leaders upholding organizational values (e.g., walking the talk) and a positive work environment. Organizations should invest in up-skilling managers and holding them accountable for their actions. Providing skills training in conflict management, critical conversations, coaching, and bystander intervention techniques is essential to creating a positive workplace culture.


Respondents are not confident that their managers have the folllowing crucial skills necessary to build positive cultures.

Preventing problems before they begin
Having difficult conversations
Conflict management
Coaching

Agree

Disagree

Lack of Strategy

A theoxic workplace has real effects on the bottom line, and company reputations don't stay internal. Organizations with poor employer brands are unable to compete for the top talent that they need to succeed. In fact, a negative reputation costs companies at least 10% more per hire.

Even though the stakes could not be higher for organizations, many lack a comprehensive approach to mitigating a toxic workplace. Not surprisingly, more than half of survey respondents with negative cultures say that they don't currently address these issues, and 40% said they won't increase their focus on these problem areas in the coming years.


Employer brand affects recruitment and retention.

“I would consider changing jobs if it meant going to a company with an excellent reputation.”
Corporate Responsibility Magazine
“I wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation— even for a pay increase.”
Talent Now

Lack of action is especially pronounced at organizations with negative cultures.


My organization does not address workplace toxicity.

We do not allocate any funding to promote a healthy workplace culture.

We will not increase our emphasis on addressing workplace toxicity.

Compliance Culture-based
Training on Bullying 29% Effective 67% Effective
Training on Harassment 27% Effective 57% Effective
Training on Discrimination 29% Effective 65% Effective

Ineffective Training

Organizations that provide training focused solely on behaviors prohibited under the law have higher rates of toxic workplaces and consistently rate their training as less effective.

On the flip side, those organizations that focus on compliance topics, as well as topics like demonstrating respect and civility, rate their training as more effective and have less toxicity in the workplace.

Alignment to Values

Corporate values are set from within and they are one of the most effective tools to set the tone for your company's workplace culture. They can be used to motivate employees, hire effectively, align teams, and change behaviors.

If they are used appropriately and as the "true north" for your organization, values are extremely effective in building a healthy workplace culture.

stacked-bar-chart-webPositive CultureDisagree84%11%5%10%15%75%Negative CultureNeither agree nor disagreeAgree“In my organization, behaviors and procedures tend to be aligned with our core values.

"It is clear that organizations must make changes to combat workplace toxicity. The time is now and there is so much we can do about it."

Elizabeth Bille, SVP of Workplace Culture, EVERFI

Prevent Toxicity and Meet Your Compliance Training Needs



Evaluate Your Training

  • Ensure that, at a minimum, you train to prevent the most egregious type of toxic behaviors, including bullying, discrimination, and harassment.
  • Teach beyond the legal compliance requirements - what is prohibited under law and the process for reporting inappropriate behavior is not enough.
  • Focus on culture-building topics such as civility, mutual respect, and bystander intervention.

Focus on Your Leaders

  • Up-skill your managers and provide training in conflict management, critical conversations, and coaching.
  • Teach supervisors how to intervene in situations through specific bystander intervention techniques.
  • Hold managers accountable by including values and behavior alignment in their performance reviews.
  • Impose meaningful consequences when leaders engage in harmful conduct.

Give Employees A Voice

  • Make sure employees know that any reports of toxicity will be taken seriously. Support employees who step forward and communicate with them throughout the process.
  • Reward employees who report toxic behavior.
  • Take steps to safeguard reporting employees from retaliation.
  • Share anonymized information about report handling and outcomes across the organization.

Evaluate Your Training

  • Ensure that, at a minimum, you train to prevent the most egregious type of toxic behaviors, including bullying, discrimination, and harassment.
  • Teach beyond the legal compliance requirements - what is prohibited under law and the process for reporting inappropriate behavior is not enough.
  • Focus on culture-building topics such as civility, mutual respect, and bystander intervention.

Focus on Your Leaders

  • Up-skill your managers and provide training in conflict management, critical conversations, and coaching.
  • Teach supervisors how to intervene in situations through specific bystander intervention techniques.
  • Hold managers accountable by including values and behavior alignment in their performance reviews.
  • Impose meaningful consequences when leaders engage in harmful conduct.

Give Employees A Voice

  • Make sure employees know that any reports of toxicity will be taken seriously. Support employees who step forward and communicate with them throughout the process.
  • Reward employees who report toxic behavior.
  • Take steps to safeguard reporting employees from retaliation.
  • Share anonymized information about report handling and outcomes across the organization.

Get Started Today.

Take the first step to impact your workplace culture. Fill out the form to request a demo of our culture-building HR and compliance training.