Oxford Dictionary named toxic the word of 2018 in 2018. In 2018, toxic relationships, toxic culture and toxic work environments were the top ten most toxic collocates.
Toxicity is created by managers and business executives. But businesses don’t monopolize toxicity. It also engulfs churches and charities. Megachurch leaders and their narcissism, greed, set the tone for toxic workplaces.
It is possible to spot a toxic workplace from both the inside and outside. To see that Donald Trump’s White House was toxic, we don’t need to look at turnover statistics or reports. Here are some signs that a toxic workplace is evident:
Inadequacy of core values that are lived and articulated
Situational procedures, practices, and decisions
Inadequacy of articulated and lived core values
Leadership is about advancing others and not yourself. Leaders create safe work environments and set the tone. Leaders live by core values.
Values are our North Star, our default position. Doing what is right, every time! Respect for people and families, trust and integrity, transparency and caring are all values.
Donald Trump’s and Justin Trudeau’s actions were devoid of ethical guiding principles and core values. Trump pressed his vice president loyal – and others – into overturning certified election results. Trudeau pressed his attorney general to conceal his conflict of interests. Both of them acted in the best interest of their respective families. Both were not subject to legal consequences. Their message to their compatriots was: Core values are not beacons of decision-making – the end justifies all the means.
Leaders who do not apply ethical guiding principles and core value consistently will ignore trust, integrity and caring and bad stewardship and accountability in favor for a certain outcome. This is a recipe for toxic culture.
Procedures and Practices Situational Decisions
Integrate core values into your procedures and practices. Train, develop, and empower people who are strong. As they learn and grow, accept their mistakes. Do not micromanage them or reprove them for making mistakes. Instead, use them to learn and teach.
A safe environment is a core value of your values. Do not compromise core values like safety to save money in times of financial hardship. Be true to your values and accept the consequences.
Leaders and managers who create processes and practices that are contrary to core values can frustrate and confuse employees. Fear makes employees more anxious, accidents happen, and toxicity can creep in. Consistent decisions are needed to affirm values.
Leaders build trust through action. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines trust as the foundation of good communication. It is “assured reliance upon the character, ability and strength of someone or something.” It doesn’t help to tell an employee about poor performance eleven months later. Regular feedback shows that you care about the employee and are willing to learn from them and help them succeed. Negative feedback is just as harmful as no feedback. Employees need both positive and negative feedback.
Apply the TAP Principle
Transparency is key: What you see is who you are, which aligns with core values.
Effective leaders and managers are approachable. They listen, ask questions and encourage.
Predictability is key: Always apply core values. If you find an error that reduced costs by $100,000, fix it. It’s okay to fix it.
Employees will know who you really are when they see your core values being applied consistently.
Leaders should respond to the legitimate concerns of employees. The workforce should be able to share information about the company’s performance. Allow them to ask questions and share their problems. Even with the best intentions, it is difficult to eliminate a culture that is rotten.
Gallup reports that the top reason people leave their jobs is to pursue career advancement opportunities. Yet, most firms do not engage employees.
Globally, 85% of employees disengage, while 65% are in the U.S. It’s no surprise that the average service time of U.S. employees is only 4.2 years, while it is 2.8 for millennials who are the largest generation of workers.
Engage employees to eliminate toxicity and create a culture of trust. Appoint leaders who are committed to the company’s values.
How should employees respond to toxic bosses?
One size doesn’t fit all. It depends on what situation you are dealing with. What is her role? Is she a micromanager or a bully? Or an ignorant and arrogant speaker? Let’s take a look at micromanagers.
Keep your eyes open for project updates. Do not wait to receive requests.
Take initiative and offer solutions that improve efficiency and processes.
Ask for priority when their projects overwhelm you. You can help them with their requests but you have limited time so they need your priorities.
Ask questions to clarify requests and playback what you have grasped.
Clarify the roles and responsibilities of team members. You want micromanagers to only meet your direct reports; they will not be present when you meet them.
They will not be satisfied with your results.
Keep your eyes on what you can control. You must have a clear red line that you won’t allow your children to cross.
Forge alliances with like-minded colleagues. Micromanagers may trust you when they get what they want. Some people are stubborn.