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Healing the Toxic Workplace: How Soft Skills Training Can Help Organizations

  • By Sheldon Kawarsky
  • October 25, 2023

healing toxic workplace

Are you tired of unnecessary drama, backstabbing, and passive-aggressive comments dragging down your work environment? Have these toxic behaviours been a long-standing issue at your workplace, but you don’t know how to address them effectively? Soft skills training has proven to be an invaluable asset for organizations when targeting and curing the symptoms of a toxic workplace.

In this blog post, we will explain why investing in soft skills training benefits organizations looking to create a healthier work culture that fosters respect and productivity.

Signs of a Toxic Workplace 

A toxic workplace is characterized by negativity, dysfunction, and a lack of productivity. Not only is this bad for business, but it can also erode your employees’ mental health. Here are some specific signs of toxicity in the working environment:

  • Poor communication
  • Lack of trust
  • Unclear roles and responsibilities
  • Cliquish behaviour
  • Uncontrolled gossip
  • Limited opportunities for upward mobility
  • High turnover rates
  • Micromanagement
  • Verbal abuse or aggression
  • Low employee morale
  • Unhealthy work-life balance
  • Lack of inclusivity 

The Consequences of a Toxic Workplace

Let’s take a look at the potential adverse effects of toxic behaviour in the workplace on employees and the organization as a whole.

On Employees

On an Organization

  • Poor reputation
  • Low productivity
  • Decreased revenue
  • High employee turnover

Who Is Mainly Responsible for Creating a Toxic Work Environment?

Research has shown that employees primarily blame leadership and management for toxic workplace cultures. A survey of 1,000 employees from U.S. tech companies conducted online by TalentLMS and Culture Amp in February 2023, revealed that 20% say leadership and senior management are mainly responsible for creating a toxic work environment. Another 18% pinpoint middle management, while 17% blame their direct manager.

Key Soft Skills Required for Changing a Toxic Workplace 

Soft skills, often referred to as people skills, are essential qualities that help individuals communicate effectively, build rapport, and manage relationships to promote a toxic-free workplace.

How Can Soft Skills Training Help Organizations Heal from a Toxic Workplace?

By valuing the importance of soft skills and cultivating them, companies can fix toxic workplaces and create a healthier, more productive work environment. Soft skills training:

  • Improves Communication and Team Collaboration: Through soft skills training, workers learn how to communicate effectively with each other by building employee interpersonal skills, which can help reduce workplace tensions from misunderstandings and disagreements. Training can also help teams work together more efficiently, as employees learn how to listen to each other’s ideas and collaborate on projects. 
  • Builds Trust and Respect: Soft skills training encourages team members to be more open-minded when working together, teaching them to treat each other with kindness and respect. Additionally, it can help employees better understand each other’s perspectives, leading to greater trust in the workplace. 
  • Promotes Emotional Intelligence and Resilience: By teaching employees how to recognize their own emotions and those of others, they will be better able to manage difficult situations in the workplace without becoming overwhelmed or resorting to negative behaviour. This new recognition can lead to increased problem-solving abilities, improved decision-making skills, and better conflict-resolution strategies. 
  • Reduces Conflict and Disagreement: Through training, employees learn how to resolve conflicts through constructive dialogue rather than arguing or becoming hostile towards one another. This focus on people management skills can lead to fewer arguments in the workplace and increased productivity due to fewer distractions caused by disagreements between coworkers. 
  • Creates a More Inclusive and Welcoming Workplace Culture: Soft skills training helps companies create a more inclusive and welcoming culture for all team members. Employees learn about different cultures and backgrounds to better understand one another’s perspectives. Moreover, they’re taught how to respect one another’s beliefs while maintaining an open dialogue about sensitive topics such as race or gender equality in the workplace. 

How to Implement a Soft Skills Training Program for Healing a Toxic Workplace

So, how do you execute a soft skills training program? Follow a series of steps to heal your toxic workplace.

  • Identify the Specific Soft Skills Need: The first step is to identify the specific soft skills that need to be addressed. This can be done by assessing the workplace’s current state, including identifying areas where communication or collaboration could be improved. Once you have identified the areas that need improvement, you can then create a customized training program tailored to those needs. 
  • Develop a Customized Soft Skills Training Program: The next step is to create a customized program that includes topics such as communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, leadership, problem-solving, decision-making, and emotional intelligence. It’s important to ensure that each topic is covered in depth so that employees can gain an understanding of how to apply these skills in their day-to-day work environment. 
  • Deliver the Training in an Engaging and Effective Way: Delivering a successful soft skills training program requires an understanding of how people learn best and how to engage them in meaningful conversations about their experiences with toxic workplaces. The facilitator should create an environment where participants feel safe sharing their thoughts and experiences without fear of judgment or criticism from others. Additionally, facilitators need to provide clear guidance throughout the session so that participants understand what they are expected to do and why they are doing it. 
  • Assess and Adapt Training Program Effectiveness: Lastly, it’s important to assess how effective your soft skills training program has improved communication and collaboration within your organization. This assessment can be done through surveys or interviews with participants after each session and by observing interactions between team members during meetings or other activities. If necessary, adjustments can then be made to improve the program’s effectiveness going forward. 

Connect with Soft Skills Training Specialists to Discuss Your Organization’s Needs

Incorporating soft skills into your workplace culture can foster a safe and inclusive environment where employees feel valued and supported to perform their best. The Soft Skills Group (TSSG) provides organizations and employees with the training necessary to heal a toxic workplace. We offer both in-person and online soft skills training workshops that can be customized to address your company’s specific needs. Contact us today to learn more.

Sheldon Kawarsky

Sheldon has over 20 years of experience holding manager and director roles in the private and academic sectors, focusing on business development and fostering relationships with companies, universities, government organizations, and venture capitalists. His strength is in relationship building and clarifying the needs of clients to ensure their training maximizes their return on investment.