How can facilities managers make bosses less toxic?

It is the oldest workplace stereotype: the controlling, micro-managing and demanding boss.

A toxic manager represents the image of the old 'ball-and-chain' workplace existence.

Research even backs it up. In 2017, academics at the University of Manchester in the UK, said line managers can be the most critical factor to the health and subsequent productivity of employees.

The toll of toxic line managers

A total of 1,200 participants from a wide range of industries and countries took part in the three studies, completing questionnaires relating to their own psychological wellbeing, the prevalence of work bullying in their organisation and their manager's personality.

Analysis of the data showed that those working for leaders who display these negative traits had lower levels of job satisfaction and scored higher on a clinical measure of depression.

Beyond this, instances of counterproductive work behaviour and workplace bullying were also higher under their leadership.

The rise of well-being

However as the emphasis on well-being rises in the domain of work, managers are realising their approach must change too.

It is now almost a given that a company in which employees feel encouraged, respected and looked after are more likely to be more productive.

Significant evidence exists supporting the link between wellbeing at work and productivity – with wellbeing including physical health and mental wellbeing. 

Findings from independent not-for-profit research institute RAND Europe’s survey found that employees on a special well-being programme showed that "healthy, highly engaged employees are, on average, up to 30 days more productive".

However, factoring in healthier habits to change the workplace culture can be slow to make. But what can FMs do to help a workplace become more like this?

Facilities managers can initiate change

FMs can ensure that offices are designed in a way that encourages collaboration. If they are not able to provide input to the design, they can influence how furniture is placed. Collating workplace data (for example how often and in what way spaces are being used) and using it more effectively in offices is key for a better workplace.

Now algorithms exist that measure desk distance and research shows desks that were within 24 metres of one another encouraged collaboration.

Research shows that often managers and bosses sat farther than 24 metres from the rest of their colleagues, which undermined collaboration within teams.

Facilities managers can also help play a part in influencing culture change even if they are not the ones able to introduce it from a boardroom level. For instance, one American tech firm has a workplace strategy of random acts of kindness. Such a policy can improve an already hostile work environment, perhaps even going on to change it, or introduce a new culture altogether where toxic management would be less tolerated.

Facilities managers can enact an open ‘zero-tolerance’ policy before or when he or she observes any behaviour that could be considered ‘toxic’ or ‘bullying’. By giving this message through internal communications and notices in the workplace, they are setting a solid boundary. If they see it being crossed they can have a process through which the behaviour is addressed and nipped in the bud.

Facilities managers have the role of looking after employees. By clamping down on toxic bosses, they are helping the company retain talent and improve the workplace culture for all workers. This will ultimately mean a better long-term reputation for their company.