Toxic is a word that has been thrown around so often that it has changed from its original meaning.
Originally, it labeled behaviors that systematically and consistently negatively affected those around them but now it is more synonymous with any perceived bad behavior that should result in cutting out the person immediately.
We all have bad days so it is important to be compassionate but at the same time to be able to correctly identify and rectify toxic behaviors, especially in the workplace which is what Toxic Workplace! does so wonderfully.
Should you read it?
Reading this book can be validating for people if they have or still work in a toxic environment.
You will enjoy the book if you:
Enjoy books with stats to back up their facts
Are you a manager and would like to solve some issues on your team
Are you a manager or soon-to-be manager and would like to prevent issues from arising in your team
However, if you are an individual contributor looking to change your work environment and DO NOT have the power to hold people accountable, this is not the book for you. The best you can do is recognize that you are in a toxic environment and be on the lookout in the future for something similar.
Basically, the first few chapters are great for everyone to get some base knowledge but the latter chapters are best for managers.
Is it all that bad? We’ve all dealt with toxic people in our professional and personal lives so do it really matter?
Yes and yes.
Much of the negative effects of toxic workplaces can go unseen but once stated, it is easy to see how it can affect everyone.
The individuals working directly with these people, start to lose motivation and have higher stress and anxiety levels which inevitably ties into lower productivity. If they don’t see management dealing with the problem, there will be a loss of trust and a build-up of resentment.
The researchers found that the negative interactions affected the moods of these employees five times more strongly than the positive ones, even though they reported positive interactions three to five times more often than the negative ones.
Soon your top performers will leave because they know they can find a workplace that values them and treats them with respect. In general, you’ll see a higher turnover.
On the business side, you’ll see higher costs and lower productivity. An unhappy team means that there is a loss in productivity. Your manager is busy masking bad behavior and managing the dissatisfaction among the team members rather than their core responsibilities.
Almost 50 percent of those who experienced incivility at work reported that they lost time worrying about this and its future consequences.
With higher turnover, training costs will skyrocket and the expertise that should accumulate over the course of time will leave for greener pastures.
How do toxic work environments start?
I believe that people are good so I highly doubt that people set out to create a terrible place for people to spend a quarter of their week.
There are two types of people that are necessary for a workplace to turn toxic, the Bad Apple and the Protector.
Firstly, the Bad Apple. This is the person whose behavior negatively affects their coworkers. Examples of such a person’s actions are diverse and limitless but can generally be broken down into 3 categories:
Shaming Behavior: Intentionally bullying and putting people down to shame and humiliate.
Passive Hostility: Indirectly expressing negative feelings and opinions. For example, micromanaging, rejecting constructive feedback, and general distrust of others.
Team Sabotage: Actions that prevent or hinder the team from performing well.
If the Bad Apple was only one person and the rest of the team were responsible and supportive, the bad behaviors would not continue for long. Eventually, the person would be called out and held accountable for their actions. Either their behavior would change or they would leave the workplace.
We’ve all worked in toxic environments and we know that it doesn’t usually go down like that so what is happening?
Enter Player 2, the Protector.
The Protector is usually someone of power who is able to decide that keeping the Bad Apple would be better. This may be due to :
Special relationships: Family, friend, or even just a workout buddy.
Productivity: The Bad Apple is highly productive therefore their behaviors are excused.
Expertise: The Bad Apple has the expertise that can't be replaced by someone else on the team.
Sorry, not the simple solution you are looking for.
We’re not saying that firing is inappropriate. Rather, it often does not accomplish the goals for which it was intended.
Even after the bad apple leaves, you are still left with the effects. The distrust and lack of motivation will not just disappear.
Just like a company changing their logo to ‘rebrand’, unless the actions match the words, it doesn’t mean anything.
Employees want to be assured that this serious matter is being taken seriously by leadership and systematic solutions are put in place to ensure this becomes a safe environment for people to work in.
So what actually can systematically help prevent a toxic environment?
There were many suggestions in the book but these were some of my favorites:
360 Feedback: Not an evaluation that is linked with compensation. Feedback to peers, subordinates, and managers with the intention of keeping communication open, honest and direct. Follow up with issues that are important to the team.
Hire as a Team: Have the team interview and decide if that is someone they want to work with. Treasure likeability over competence as it is a stronger indicator of productivity.
Leadership Training - Part of which should be on identifying and how to handle toxic behaviors. You can’t really prevent something you know nothing about
So what did you learn today? Do you think that these policies could create real change in the workplace?
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