A toxic work environment is an unfortunate position for any business. That kind of environment has the potential to destroy productivity, kill any passion felt by employees for the job, or even drive away potential employees that would be a major asset to the company. There are many ways the human resources department can deal with and hopefully reverse this process.
Discover the source of the toxic environment
It is not always easy to uncover the source of the toxic environment. It could be coming from a veteran employee, a new hire, someone in a leadership position, or most likely the product of a whole team or department. If the work environment is really bad there are bound to be a few complaints turned into HR. The most important thing is to never dismiss a complaint. Take them all seriously. If possible, interview some of the employees associated and try to see if anyone knows anything. HR cannot deal with a problem if they do not know where it is coming from.
Remove the toxin in the environment
If the toxic environment is the product of a few employees or simply one person than sometimes termination is the way to deal with it. These individuals were aware of their job responsibilities when they initially applied to the company and if the employee fails to meet these responsibilities then they should be held accountable.
Find a cure
Easier said than done, this method is going to be the most hands-on in situations when the environment is the product of a whole department or termination is not possible. Sometimes an employee feels like nothing more than a small cog in a bigger machine so their contribution is not that important. This lack of effort brings the rest of the team down. Introducing an incentive program for employees with the most sales or the most work done could be a solution. Perhaps the top three employees in the department receive some sort of reward whether that be a few days paid vacation, a small raise, etc. If an incentive program is off the table for one reason or another then perhaps rewarding the leader of the department for fixing the department could work better. Perhaps giving them a bonus for a rise in productivity could motivate them to rally their troops and encourage their department to work harder and better.
For a desperate situation perhaps a redistribution of leadership could be a smarter alternative. A change is not always bad and could revitalize a stale environment. This could mean demoting someone in a leadership position and promote someone to that position. Of course, this may create more static in the environment if that former leader is forced to work under someone he once commanded. To avoid this move this demoted person to a different department. Or even move other employees to a different department.