How to turn workplace dysfunction into an open and honest culture

The five signs of dysfunction and five steps to improve company wellbeing.

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Celebrating Honesty Day :

US Honesty Day was established in the US in the 1990s. From the outset it was to encourage honest and straight forward communications and relationships, especially from those in charge. Whilst it may have had a more political origin it is now recognized as an important aspect of working life.

In the workplace straight forward communication and honesty are two factors critical for the positive engagement of staff and help to create a harmonious and motivated workforce. These factors are especially important to females.

According to the Association for Talent Development, workplace dysfunction occurs whenever members of a team lack the desire to work together toward a common purpose. At its heart there may be a lack of honesty in the company culture.  And when this happens, disharmony occurs.

What are the five typical signs of dysfunction in the workplace?

  • High level of absenteeism. Whilst national statistics show that national absenteeism rates are falling, there is thought to be an increase in presenteeism (when people go to work even though they are ill) due to the financial pressures and perceived risk to job security. This could be more damaging to the employee and employer than true absenteeism. Watch out for both!
  • High rate of staff turnover. This is very much dependent on sector and skill level.
  • Increased working days lost to stress, anxiety and depression. This has increased dramatically to represent 57% of all such days in 17/18 compared to 40% in 02/03 (HSE Great Britain).
  • An increase in staff lateness.
  • Low productivity levels.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) tracks absenteeism and staff turnover rates in the UK, usually be sector.

What five actions should an employer consider taking?

  1. An independent third party survey of employee wellbeing helps to determine the level of disquiet amongst the workforce. Online surveys work well as they ensure total anonymity. But face to face group workshops are highly beneficial to draw out issues and get under the skin of the company culture.
  2. Review the communication strategy. Are top down communications transparent, credible and clear?  It has been shown by blue chip organisations that this improves employee trust and in turn performance.

Put staff wellbeing and engagement at the centre of the business strategy and build a training plan around it. These three steps should be built into every organisation’s training plan:

  • Help Team Leaders develop the soft skills to openly discuss issues with employees with empathy and understanding.
  • Invest in employee training to help staff build resilience against stress.  Nutrition and lifestyle factors can be easy and simple for individuals to implement but have a significant impact on an individual’s ability to cope, to sleep, to perform.

    Provide the training and knowledge to enable employees to make healthy lifestyle choices. This helps create happier, more engaged and more productive individuals.
  • Introduce Wellbeing Ambassadors that have training and knowledge to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress. These symptoms can be quite subtle but through good training, it becomes easier to spot the early warning signs and take action before employees are signed off. The average days lost per case is 25 days. Almost a month.

A lack of trust and poor communications creates stress and disharmony amongst the workforce. Take a top down and bottom up approach with these five steps to improve communications and the wellbeing of everyone in the company. “A win/win”.

*Caroline Peyton is an experienced naturopath with more than a decade of experience. She runs clinics in Wiltshire and the Cotswolds in the UK and can offer online consultations globally under her brand Peyton Principles. She specialises in nutritional therapy, gut and digestive issues as well as wellbeing in the workplace. For more information visit

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