Why Company Values are the Beginning and End of your Toxic Behavior Prevention Strategy

Toxic workplace behavior may be shaping up to be HR’s biggest problem in the modern workplace. According to a recent Rand study, at least 1 in 5 workers report a hostile work environment, and in a recent Blind survey, 52% of tech workers reported that they believed their workplace was toxic. That’s a huge percentage of the workforce operating under less-than-ideal conditions.

So what can businesses do to prevent toxic workplace behavior in the first place? One of the simplest ways to lay the groundwork for a healthy workplace is to build strong, compelling company values--and then make sure your people managers use them. Here’s why:

Company values will better inform your hiring managers

It all starts in the hiring process: according to SHRM, HR plays a vital role in shaping workplace culture. Your HR department will see most personnel through the entire employee lifecycle, which means they have valuable contact time during crucial times during an employee’s tenure that they can use to model company values. They’re also responsible for fielding claims of toxic workplace behavior, documenting each incident, and executing the disciplinary process. In general, they’re essentially documenting the history of your company via employee records and company policy.  It’s paramount that they both understand and embody your values so that they can properly interpret and enforce your policies and best practices.

Company values can help candidates self-select

The path to preventing toxic workplace behavior begins with making sure your talent pool understands what you’re about. The easiest place to start is to make sure your company values are stated clearly in your job postings and/or recruiting campaigns. If your values are explicitly incorporated into the application process--say, in a required question or talked about in interviews--the more your talent pool will be primed to know what they’re getting into. Candidates who aren’t interested in your values will be able to opt out earlier in the process, which saves you the headache of having to interview poor culture fits.

Incorporating your values into your recruiting schemes for upper and middle management is absolutely vital.  They are, after all, the folks you are entrusting to model those values across your business. People managers make or break the workplace, and bad ones are one of the top reasons employees leave a company.  If your people managers aren’t driving your company values forward, they could be contributing to the opposite: a hostile work environment that leaves your employees demotivated, unproductive, and potentially interested in interviewing elsewhere.

Company values will guide the adjudication process

One of the first opportunities a hiring manager has to gauge the character of their candidate is a background check--more specifically, a social media screening. A candidate may be able to put on a good show in the interview, but a social media screening can potentially reveal insight into their off-duty behavior.  When a social media hiring report comes back with red flags, it’s up to the hiring manager to adjudicate whether or not that kind of behavior makes for a good culture fit for your organization.  Having a set of clear, implementable values not only can guide your hiring team into attracting the right kind of talent, it can also help you adjudicate the kind of talent you don’t want to bring on.  For example, if your company values “inclusion”, then a candidate with a history of intolerance can be quickly adjudicated. Similarly, if your company is driven by “diplomacy”, then it’ll be easier to winnow out the candidates whose reports reveal a history of violent threats.  

Alternatively, instead of initiating adverse action, companies can also use red flags on a hiring report as a “teachable moment”. This is an excellent way to navigate that awkward territory between “I don’t want to take adverse action” and “I can’t just let this behavior slide.” Instead of just pointing out the red flag and asking the candidate to explain themselves, HR managers can create an opportunity to come alongside the candidate and “call them in” for an opportunity to learn and set firm expectations instead of simply “calling them out” for unacceptable behavior.

Company values can help drive the screening process

Values are not only helpful when adjudicating, they are also helpful in informing a hiring manager determine what to screen for. One of the defining features of Social Intel is that we only screen for the kind of behavior you’re concerned about, meaning our filters are completely customizable. Whether that’s creating a custom filter for industry-specific information or cutting out one of our filters because your company values don’t point to screening for that kind of behavior, we don’t waste your time delivering information that’s not relevant to your process.  Social media screening gives you the insight you need to determine whether a candidate is a good hire or a potentially toxic one, but ultimately you get to define what is toxic for your company’s unique work environment.

Want to create a better workplace culture? Social media screening may be right for you. Social Intel provides a brief, informative whitepaper and sample Hiring Report to help businesses understand how they can create a healthier workplace culture by taking proactive steps to screen their employees’ and prospective employees’ publicly available online information.