Over the past few years there have been thousands upon thousands of articles written on the dangers of toxic workplaces—from disengaged, disempowered employees to excessively high employee turnover rates. The chief culprits of this toxicity have long been documented:

  • Bad bosses
  • Hostile environments
  • Office politics/gossiping
  • Disempowerment
  • Below-the-line behavior
  • Zero work-life balance

… the list goes on.

What’s more, we have been able to quantify the impact of toxic workplace behaviors and norms. This infographic (click here) does a particularly great job capturing the gravity of the situation. It reminds us that 70% of U.S. professionals would not work at a leading company if it meant they had to tolerate a bad workplace culture. In fact, 65% would accept lower pay, and 26% a lower salary, than deal with a difficult environment.

In my experience, I’ve found that when a culture transitions from strong and healthy to toxic, productivity is reduced by over 50% and it becomes difficult—if not impossible—to regain or improve productivity. However, what you don’t find when you scour through article after article is anyone talking about the way archaic technology and broken processes impact culture. And let me tell you… they do.

At the end of last month, our Principal of Business Development, Garry Foisy spoke at DisruptHR, activating in the minds of HR leaders the understanding that as the ultimate keepers of culture, they need to understand how legacy technology and broken processes negatively impact culture—just like bad benefits, limited training opportunities and micromanaging bosses. Though we don’t talk about it much, there are day-to-day grievances our employees’ experience as it relates to technology and process that kill workplace happiness. Those grievances may come in the form of employee:

  • Spending an excess of 60 hours a week pulling manual reports from Excel
  • Logging into three different systems to obtain information on one customer account
  • Struggling to connect the dots between departments because critical business data information is not centrally located or accessible

When we don’t address technology and process issues, we are taking steps to create a toxic culture. We are also contributing to great employees to leaving our companies.

So, What Do We Do? 

The fact is that outdated technologies, incomplete systems and broken processes run rampant through our organizations, and our organization are literally bleeding money. Think about your department for a moment. Write down every process you depend on (for example, customer invoicing, expense management, asset management… the list goes on) and every technology and systems on which you depend (like your ERP, CRM, financial platform, ITSM system, that custom application built 15 years ago, and those old databases developed on FoxPro and Access).

Once you have everything documented, consider the impact and pain for each item you have jotted down asking yourself: how business critical is that process, system or technology and how much pain is it causing your department.

At Trilix, we often find that companies can be aware of the problem areas, and know exactly where they are bleeding money, but struggle to pinpoint where and how to start. We developed an assessment matrix that helps companies better understand their processes and technology-related challenges. We begin by classifying the challenge into one of four quadrants:

  • Disrupt: Challenges that fall into the Disrupt quadrant are high pain and high impact. They demand us as leaders to disrupt, or introduce radical positive change, immediately.
  • Evolve: Characterized as high impact, low pain, this quadrant requires a steady eye. This quadrant requires leaders to focus on continuous improvement—making small changes over time. Unattended, these obstacles can quickly shift to high pain if you are not careful.
  • Ignore: Processes, systems or technologies that are low pain and low impact can be ignored. Investing in these challenges is hard for leaders to justify and generates little to no return on investment. If a challenge falls in this quadrant, table it for now.
  • Question: If one of your processes, systems or technologies is low impact but high pain, question it. If there is high pain around a low priority day-to-day team tool, you may want to explore why.

Finally, you need to start to prioritize which area of pain you wish to tackle first. Figuring that out sometimes means asking the simple question of: how much is this pain impacting workplace culture? Or another way of thinking of it: how likely am I to lose my employees if I don’t tackle this area of pain?

Changing the Conversation

I began this blog by highlighting the great dialogue and research that exists on the dangers and realities of workplace toxicity. As business leaders, we are taught and advised to spot the warning signs, to build a plan for betterment and to create the workplaces of tomorrow that engage, empower and endear our employees to us. But we need to expand the conversation.

We need to start to talk about the role process and technology play in shaping culture. We need to start to pay attention to how the tools, workflows, and systems impact our employees daily. We need to own the everyday hurdles, limitations, and bottlenecks that severely hold our employees back from greatness.

It’s time to change the conversation. Are you with me?


Ready to apply the matrix to yuor organization? Click here to learn about our discovery-based workshops.

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