What are the causes of a bad working atmosphere

You, your employees and colleagues spend a considerable part of your life at work. The work serves to satisfy a wide range of conscious and unconscious demands and needs. Securing your livelihood and possible career options are the most obvious needs. But also confirmation and appreciation, social contact with other people and the need for a structured daily routine are essential factors that motivate us to go to work every day. However, many of these needs can only be satisfied in a pleasant working atmosphere. At the same time, satisfying these needs is also the prerequisite for a pleasant working atmosphere.

It is certain that a relaxed and tolerant working atmosphere has a positive effect on the motivation, work behavior and the human psyche of your employees. In 2015, a study by Creditplus Bank found out that a positive working climate is more important for employees than flexible working hours or high pay. A study of the German health insurance company AOK from 2016 showed that every fourth respondent complains about a bad working climate.

The Gabler business encyclopedia defines the working climate as follows:  “… the quality of social relations within the organization and the conditions that shape them, how they are perceived by the workforce and shape their behavior…”

To enable you to determine the working climate within your company yourself, we offer a questionnaire for download in addition to this article.

What are the causes of a bad working atmosphere?

The working atmosphere of a company is as individual as the people who work there. Also, it is a subjective feeling, a situation can be perceived differently by people because of their personal needs and feelings. However, the causes of a poor working atmosphere are often similar and are usually related to an inadequate communication culture. The working climate has a direct influence on the economic performance of the company and should, therefore, be taken very seriously.

Inadequate communication

Open and clear communication is the key to a functioning social interaction. If this is not the case, misunderstandings, mistakes, and unexpressed conflicts will occur. Relations within the company should be based on openness and trust. Everyone should be allowed to speak up constructively, in particular, to raise any problems.

If conflicts or disagreements arise, it is important to address them openly and objectively and to seek constructive solutions.

Expressing displeasure through empty phrases instead of talking openly and honestly to the people concerned damages the sense of community. Unresolved conflicts block community and productive work. Respectful and collegial interaction with each other is a basic prerequisite for a healthy working atmosphere. This is not true despite, but precisely because you cannot choose your colleagues yourself.

Lack of transparency

Openness and transparency are incredibly important for a positive working atmosphere. Employees have a good sense of what is going on in the company. Withholding information from people regularly can lead to rumors, negative atmosphere, and undermines the credibility of managers. All these points can severely damage the working atmosphere.

Nevertheless, there are always situations in which managers cannot or do not want to communicate in full transparency towards employees. This applies in particular to personnel decisions and upcoming strategic decisions. It can be argued that what the employees do not know does not influence them. This is correct, but it should be taken into account that information often behaves like water in its propagation, you can try to stop it but you will always find some way.

It can happen, for example, that managers pass on information to friends under the cloak of secrecy. This is especially the case when the circle of initiated managers is so large that it is difficult to identify the information leak. From this point on, the information continues to spread uncontrolled and the employees become aware of the lack of transparency.

One would assume that in the long run, no secret will remain secret, so it is advisable to be as transparent as possible to your employees from the outset. The employees will thank you for this internal openness with a strengthened cohesion and an increased identification with the company.

Inadequate forwarding of information

It is very frustrating for employees if they do not have the information they need to do their job. It is even more frustrating when they learn that the information is available in the company but simply isn’t passed on. In the worst case, employees may feel that information is deliberately withheld from them.

Take active steps to ensure that the necessary information is passed on to colleagues as quickly as possible. Think: “What information is important for whom?” and pass it on without being asked. Think about new colleagues and employees from other departments.

Unclear requirements and expectations

Missing or unclearly formulated requirements and expectations are also a consequence of insufficient communication. If tasks, problems, and objectives are not sufficiently specified by managers, it is almost impossible for employees to satisfy the (unexpressed) expectations of their superiors. This can very quickly lead to pronounced frustration for all involved. If this occurs regularly, the frustration quickly harms the working atmosphere.

Organizational deficiencies

If the following criteria are given in your company, the employees of your company usually feel comfortable and enjoy their work:

  • There is a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere in the company
  • The communication among each other is open and clear
  • The employees approach each other with appreciation and recognition
  • The cooperation is characterized by tolerance and helpfulness

The following criteria indicate a deteriorating working atmosphere:

  • Increasing lack of solidarity
  • Declining commitment and increasing indifference of employees
  • Declining communication and social interaction among employees
  • Increasing group formation within the workforce
  • Increasing insecurity and fear among employees

As soon as your employees feel uncomfortable, the pleasure and joy of work decreases. This leads to decreasing motivation, increasing emotional distance and can result in inner resignation, increasing both sick leave and employee turnover. Such a trend inevitably has an impact on the economic result: The productivity of employees decreases, the number of production errors increases, sales decrease, and the innovative power of the company declines.

To help you assess the working climate, we provide a questionnaire for your employees to download at the end of the text. The questionnaire should be filled out anonymously by your employees. In addition to the list of questions, the questionnaire also contains a section for possible suggestions, requests, and criticism from your employees. After the evaluation of the questionnaire, if necessary, measures should be taken to improve the working atmosphere.

Promoting a positive working atmosphere

To promote a positive working climate, it is necessary to eliminate the causes of a bad working climate. Furthermore, a positive working atmosphere can be easily promoted with few means:

“Be nice to each other” is not enough

Internal tension cannot always be avoided. Frequently, they cannot be eliminated by simple empty phrases. Dealing constructively with each other and finding compromises that are accepted by all involved, can be exhausting. However, you should take this effort upon yourself, in the long run, it always pays off. The dialogue about the working atmosphere and possible grievances can already have a positive effect on the working atmosphere. But there is no patent remedy at this point.

Promoting communication among employees

To improve the working atmosphere, communication between employees who otherwise have fewer points of contact should also be encouraged. This promotes social interaction and integration and helps to reduce possible prejudices. Specific opportunities should be created for this purpose. These can be cross-departmental meetings or lunch breaks spent together. To promote the working atmosphere, it is initially of secondary importance whether professional or private contents are discussed. As soon as the social integration of different company departments has progressed far enough, the professional exchange between these departments will also increase.

Creating a shared sense of achievement

Nothing brings people closer together and promotes the feeling of togetherness more than shared successes. Create targeted opportunities for joint success experiences and make this clear. Teamwork and mutual support are important pillars of a healthy working atmosphere. They strengthen mutual trust and give employees the feeling of being part of a community. It can also help to encourage employees to give their colleagues a hand more often if you notice that someone else is particularly stressed at the moment.

Express your appreciation through praise…

Equally important for the working atmosphere is appreciation. This applies not only to managers towards their employees but also to the employees themselves. Appreciate each other, whether through appropriate praise, appreciative feedback or a nice e-mail. Offer everyone the recognition they deserve. In order not to appear obtrusive, choose words that reflects your opinion in an open and friendly manner.

For example:

  • “I’m glad we’re colleagues.”
  • “Thanks for having my back yesterday.”
  • “The way you structure your work suits me just fine.”
  • “I was very impressed with the way you handled this difficult project.”

…and constructive feedback

Inappropriate criticism can quickly turn into a conflict. However, criticism is essential for companies and the key to improvement. It is important to be constructive only.

Here is some food for thought:

  1. What do you want to achieve with criticism? What changes should the feedback trigger?
  2. Hold back with hurtful statements. When criticizing, concentrate on the behavior, not on the person as such.
  3. Find the appropriate time. If the mood is emotionally charged, it is better to wait until the situation has cooled down. In principle, however, feedback should be given promptly.
  4. Look for a solution together instead of living in the past and always talking about past mistakes.

Allow your counterpart to defend himself in an open dialogue. Formulate open questions that ask for the opinion of the other person.

Set a good example

Be a role model for your colleagues and employees. If you want more openness and tolerance from your fellow human beings, then set an example. You must be prepared to give what you want from your colleagues.

A positive working atmosphere not only contributes to making employees feel comfortable in a company. It also affects the success of your company. Satisfied employees are less likely to be ill and are happy to support the company with their productive labor. Due to the interaction, the economic success of a company can also have a positive effect on the working atmosphere. It gives the employees security and rewards for work done.

Use the questionnaire to find out what the working atmosphere in your company is like.

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