Did you know more than five distinct pieces of legislation in New Zealand require you, as a manager, to be considerate of the psychological health of employees and keep them safe?

Not only does Worksafe enforce the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 in ensuring workplaces minimise psychological harm from bullying, overwork and a lack of autonomy at work, other laws fighting toxic workplace culture include:

  1. Employment Relations Act 2000 – which gives employees the right to request flexible working arrangements, and general employer/employee requirements
  2. The Accident Compensation Amendment Act 2010
  3. Parental Leave & Employment Protection Act 1987 & Amendment
  4. The NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990
  5. The Privacy Act 1993, which includes processes of disclosure and talking to others around return to work.

What this means is there are significant consequences – both legal and humane – when the New Zealand workplace improvements with great HR software aren’t as supportive as you wish.

The recurring risk factors for toxic and mentally injurious workplaces include:

  • Not feeling part of a team – even a virtual team.
  • Role conflict or lack of role clarity (stress around the employee not understanding the importance of their role).
  • Effort/reward imbalance (when one’s team doesn’t recognise the value of the person’s contributions).
  • Role overload (high workloads or job demands).
  • Low job control.
  • Negative stigma about the role.
  • Lack of being consulted when something is changing at the organisation.
  • Poor procedural justice (fairness, transparency).
  • Workplace conflict and relationships.
  • Bullying/harassment.
  • Poor support from supervisors/ co-workers.
  • Low resources and support.

Correcting these problems begins with you, employers and management.

Four crucial signs of toxic workplace culture witnessed by an HR expert

Esther Williams, Head of HR at FCB (enableHR’s sister company) – who currently enjoys a role with great maternity and health leave options, warm company values, supportive perks and collegiality – has been inside several companies in which harmful workplace behaviour has hindered successful culture.

1. Lack of psychological safety

“People need to feel comfortable raising ideas, questions or concerns regardless of the outcome,” Williams says. “They need to feel ‘safe’ speaking up at all levels of the organisation so we can ensure each person is heard and feels valued. If someone seems quiet we need to work out why this is and ensure they are comfortable to speak up and feel a part of the team.

2. When team members don’t show up to extracurricular activities

“When people don’t attend meetings they consider to be out of their scope, including learning and development opportunities, company briefings, social events, even the morning coffee run, it shows a lack of caring for anything outside of the employee’s direct sphere/role. This will mean they don’t know what’s going on around them in the wider company community. They won’t feel a part of the organisation, it will impact negatively on the team, and the overall company culture can suffer because they won’t be engaged.”

3. Nit-picking and unhelpful complaints

“I have seen sometimes when an employee and manager aren’t ‘vibing,’ they may come to HR or other leaders with insignificant gripes, complaints or snippy emails that are extremely childish and not aligned to the company culture at all. It wastes the time of all involved and will never have a positive outcome as the topics are really trivial.”

4. When feedback indicates failure

“It’s a sign of a toxic team culture when no matter what you do your engagement scores remain stagnant or low. It may be that people don’t provide feedback at the first instance, or they do but then aren’t interested in being a part of the change process when you identify areas for improvement in relation to their feedback. This leaves managers at a standstill. You can’t improve if employees aren’t telling you what needs to be fixed, and you can’t fix those things if the employees aren’t willing to help do so.”

Toxic language managers should watch out for

New research from MIT Sloan School of Management has found toxic workplace culture can be spotted through certain worrying words being used too often in the office:

  • Unethical behaviour – identifiable when people too-often talk about “false promises,” “smoke and mirrors” and “sugar-coating.”
  • When the words “regulatory compliance” are mocked or unheeded – leading to unsafe staff.
  • Non-inclusivity, leading to staff and managers having “cliques,” being “clubby,” or an “in-crowd.”
  • Cut-throat competitiveness – evident when employees are using language such as “dog-eat-dog,” “Darwinian” or accusing a co-worker of “throwing another under the bus,” “stabbing each other in the back,” or sabotage.

Reasons to stop toxic rot in your workplace

As cited in research used by Australia’s Human Rights Commission, every dollar spent on identifying, case-managing and supporting workers with mental health issues and/or vulnerable to toxic treatment yields close a 500 per cent return in improved productivity.

One of the best tools to provide support is enableHR. The wraparound outsourced software service offers an intuitive ‘bouncing ball’ experience, guiding and prompting the user towards ensuring legally-sound and safe New Zealand work environments are maintained.

As enableHR Business Development Manager Andrew Feehan puts it: “The platform creates confidence that any workplace issue will have a fair process in place to help address and resolve as needed – particularly matters relating to bullying and harassment. Staff have the ability to report incidents through the Workplace Health and Safety tab in employee Self-Service (eSS) which promotes a reporting culture around safety. In addition, the Health & Safety (H&S) module inside the software helps a business identify where its health and safety risks are and how to resolve them.”

enableHR can help you as a Kiwi workplace manager these ways:

  • enableHR can be set up to notify new and existing staff they must read and acknowledge (with a digital signature) any company policies you have in place, such as a Bullying and Harassment Policy, ensuring your company is meeting its record-keeping obligations.
  • Using enableHR to document systems, processes and protection should minimise the chance that your workplace inadvertently discriminates against or harasses workers with mental illness and makes sure reasonable adjustments to meet the needs of workers with mental illness are set up – while handing their information privately (the Human Rights Amendment Act 2001 bans workplace discrimination against people on the grounds of: psychological disability or impairment. psychiatric illness. experience of mental illness, or mental health problems.)
  • enableHR is set up to manage all aspects of the employment lifecycle including employee management. People managers and HR personnel can handle anything which could become contentious (records of toxic workplace grievances, policies, notetaking) inside the software.
  • The H&S module is a standard feature inside of enableHR and can help you manage policies for H&S topics you never even imagined you have to take care of, which means your staff have a higher likelihood of being taken care of, and minimising the risk there will be problems later.
  • A special system within enableHR handles volunteers, their records, awards and rights.

enableHR guides any business towards creating the most positive workplace culture imaginable.

enableHR reduces the time you spend on HR admin so you can focus on more meaningful HR activities like creating a good workplace culture.

Get a demo of enableHR today, and start keeping toxic culture away.