Join the Workplace Detox Movement!

How to fix a toxic work environment

For those contemplating a return to work, many may be dreading that return – not because they don’t want to work, but because their office is toxic. If your working environments display toxic work behaviors, promote negative work cultures or if toxicity prevents employees from feeling happy and engaged in their work, you need to consider a Detox. We’re joined today by Workplace Transformationalist Julie Bartkus, and she’ll be talking with us about detoxing your workplace. Here, she explains:

  • The Workplace Detox Movement;
  • How to tell if your workplace is in need of a detox;
  • How toxic workplaces impact the bottom line; and
  • How to conduct a detox in your workplace!

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The Workplace Detox Movement

  • The core of a workplace detox is discovering what the root cause of any workplace issue is.
  • Often we tend to look at symptoms for a larger issue. Without digging deeper to find the root cause of all of these issues, we tend to treat the symptoms over and over again and fail to make any real progress in improving the workplace.
  • By focusing on the root cause, a toxic workplace or toxic work environment can be more easily remedied.


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Ms. Bartkus’ Role In The Workplace Detox Movement

  • Ms. Bartkus has only been a part of numerous toxic workplaces that were in need of detoxing, but she has also been coaching organizations on how to fix a toxic work environment for over 20 years.
  • She began her career in this space by working with organizations that experienced toxic work environments via turnover, negativity, and drama.
    • She began interviewing every level of employee to better understand what about their workplace was demotivating them.
  • Through her experience, she has gained the knowledge to identify those root causes of issues and help fix toxic work environments.

First Steps To Recovery

  • As a manager or leader looking to fix a toxic work environment, one of the first things to examine are your own thought processes. Do you have positive and energizing thoughts about employees, or are they mostly negative thoughts? If the latter is true, you may be a part of the problem.
  • Most leaders assume that issues and stressors within the workplace are just something that is part of the job, but it does not have to be that way.
  • Leaders and employees should energize employees and employees should also energize their leaders. 

Toxic Workplace Behaviors

  • The top three behaviors are ones that have been mentioned already: 
    • Gossip;
    • Negativity;
    • Drama;
    • Tardiness
    • Absenteeism;
    • Unfair shares of workload;
    • Lack of accomplishment;
    • Employees not wanting to return to work.
  • All of these behaviors can have an adverse effect on the workplace and serve as red flags that a workplace is or has become toxic, and organizations should immediately begin working on strategies on how to fix that toxic work environment.

How Toxic Workplaces Affect The Bottom Line

  • While it may seem like these issues are often dismissed as internal personality clashes, a toxic work environment can and will affect the organization’s bottom line.
  • This is especially apparent when it comes to motivation.
    • In a toxic work environment, people struggle to become motivated to accomplish goals and think innovatively, which will in turn have a negative effect on output and profitability.
  • Turnover and retention can also occur in a toxic work environment and that can be extremely costly to the organization.

What Exactly Is A Workplace Detox?

  • While most organizations focus on what they need to start doing when working on how to fix a toxic work environment, a workplace detox is truly about what organizations need to stop doing.
  • Typically, when a new employee is brought on, they are excited about the new role, but over time, this excitement diminishes.
    • We want to focus on what is causing this excitement to diminish.
  • Organizations need to go through a rigorous analysis of what workplace elements and interactions are causing employees to lose their motivation and excitement.

The Scale Of Fixing A Toxic Workplace

  • Leaders can start at the organizational or team level when focusing on how to fix a toxic work environment. 
    • This decision depends on what governs a team functioning, whether the organization has a large corporate structure, or whether individual managers are responsible for specific teams.
    • If it is a larger structure, it may work better to begin the detox process from the top as a company initiative. 
    • On the other hand, if a specific team is experiencing a toxic work environment, the detox may be able to begin at that level with the manager of that team.

Conducting A Workplace Detox

  • An extremely important factor in a workplace detox is taking responsibility.
    • This includes taking responsibility for the root causes of the toxic workplace as well as taking responsibility for making change happen.
  • From there, leaders must work to implement these solutions that continue to energize and motivate employees.
  • Leaders do not need to lecture employees on what needs to change, but they do need to communicate with their team effectively.
    • This can be in the form of one-on-one meetings or any other alternative that allows the leader to make the effort to fix the toxic work environment feel tailored to each employee.
  • Ms. Bartkus believes that an outside facilitator is necessary to conduct an effective workplace detox.
  • Without any outside help, it can be extremely difficult for leaders to determine how to fix a toxic work environment and sometimes to even identify the causes of that toxic environment at all.
    • An analogy she gives is: “If you’re in the picture, it is really hard to see the picture”
  • The timeframe needed for a workplace detox is reliant on identifying the underlying causes and focusing on them. 
    • The longer it takes for an organization to identify and understand these causes, the longer the process of fixing the toxic work environment may be. 
  • When it comes to individual people who seem to be contributing to the toxic workplace, it is more about working to change habits rather than personalities.
  • This can also be remedied by having a robust hiring and onboarding process to ensure you hire the right people from the start.
  • Once the detox is underway, the benefits can often be seen immediately.
  • The workplace detox process works to help organizations to “clean the slate” with their leaders and team members and allows for a reinvigorated passion for the goals of the organization.
  • It allows everyone to rediscover the “why” behind everything the organization is working toward and to once again become motivated to achieve those goals.

Utilizing Ms. Bartkus As A Consultant

  • Ms. Bartkus encourages people to get in touch with her via her website,  
  • Once connected, Ms. Bartkus will do a “Getting Unstuck” consultation at no cost to help evaluate everything that is going on at your organization and what the next steps might be. 
  • She will work to see if there is an alignment between her and any prospective clients and if it is a match, she will begin working to teach clients how to fix a toxic work environment.
  • She offers organizational, group, and individual clients and each one is a personalized approach to the respective issue.

Julie Bartkus Background

  • BA in Business with a minor in Psychology from Columbia College
  • She has previously worked as a Manager for Ameritech Services and is also the Founder of both Child Care Business Success and Motivate Teachers, both based in the Greater Chicago Area.
  • Today, she works as a Workplace Transformationalist, helping others enjoy their workplace environment and the people with whom they work alongside.


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