After an intensive series on the workplace, we come to our final part of the series: surviving and thriving. If you need to catch up, you can get the series articles here, here and here. Today I begin with a story that came into my inbox this week from MA*

‘I am a journalist who worked in a national newsroom and I was so depressed after working in a toxic environment for seven years that I quit my job in a last-ditch attempt to save my sanity. After I quit, I went to the doctor who said my stress levels were dangerously high and I was going to cause myself long term physical and mental health damage. I needed three months to recover from the trauma before I could face going back to work. I am still in the same profession now, but I choose to work for companies that take better care of their employees, and now I work much better hours, don’t allow anyone to make me feel pressured, and I am open with my colleagues if I am struggling to cope. Now I put myself first, and I am no longer a people pleaser.’

We all have been there, in an environment that sucked the life out of us, and when you get to say enough is enough and take a bold step to leave, the air is definitely fresh on the other side. You breath a lot easier. It isn’t easy to get out of a bad work situation, not only because your bills are real, but because toxic workplaces do a good job of keeping you too afraid for your next move. They keep you off balance, and they make you sick, and let’s face it, sick and discouraged people don’t always make the most effective job seekers.

“A positive and constructive work environment which values its employees is absolutely vital given the amount of time we spend at work.”

However, any good executive or owner of a company knows that culture is King. As a business owner it is in your best interest to build an organization where shared values and virtues are held firmly and where the Joeffrys Baratheon’s and Uncle Sal’s of this world don’t thrive. This is because , if your high performing employees are witnessing the crazy in the organization it may be affecting them already, and also means you may have lost the war on retaining them long term.

Uber’s long – awaited IPO filing on April 11 shows how allowing harassment, discrimination, mismanagement and other forms of bad behavior to persist unchecked can also endanger companies long term financial prospects. Early this year as Uber geared towards its IPO in April, they admitted that their workplace culture and forward – leaning approach created significant operational and cultural challenges that have in the past harmed, and may in the future continue to harm, their business results and financial condition. “A failure to rehabilitate our brand and reputation will cause our business to suffer”

So the question begets, how do you then overcome a toxic work culture that has slowly eaten into the core of your organization? The answer- start over. Once culture has gone bad it can be hard to rebuild relationships and trust. But it’s possible. Here is how.

  1. Own It – Admitting the problem and letting people know you are aware is the first step to a healthier culture. Last year when renowned company Nike was caught in the midst of a toxic workplace scandal Matthew Kneller, Nike’s director of global corporate communications acknowledged that there was room for improvement at the company. “There is no doubt that we’ll learn from this experience, “ Kneller wrote in an email, referring to the recent allegations about workplace misconduct and gender discrimination at Nike. When you walk into an office toxicity is apparent. You can taste it, you can feel it. However employees aren’t always willing to be the first to speak out because they want leadership to speak up first.
  2. Accept It – Even as more and more people are getting to understand that workplaces can be toxic, and are willing to work on the organization culture, it is important to note that the term “Toxic” can be very broad and can be used to cover very many forms of broad behavior.  I remember one organisation that would use personality traits to compensate for bad behavior. If someone was outright rude and downright right toxic, they would label him or her as a choleric, to cover up. Other teammates would then be asked to read up on books on personality traits to help them deal with one another, which in essence never really solved any issue. The situation got worse and eventually out of hand. As we now all know, a toxic workplace can kill if left unchecked. As a leader, once you get the facts, it could be through random work surveys, or someone may drop a hint during a performance review whatever the case, don’t just gather facts for facts sake, accept that the environment is toxic, because that is when real change begins.
  3. Change It : – Usually in the game of organizational culture, accepting that there is a problem in the organization especially by senior management is a big step towards change. Granted when something has been broken, the process of fixing it can be a very painful and dauntful task. We have seen CEOs, Executive Directors, Top senior level management of companies, sent home as a result of admitting the culture is toxic. So no one wants to admit it, because also in some way, they are admitting they have a flaw, but no is perfect, and no organization is perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try right? So once you discover that your workplace is a hotbed of terror, recommit to your values and communicate them, and the the re-building process begin. Everyone wants to win, and everyone wants to have positive influence on people in the long run. Being willing to own, accept and change a toxic workplace culture is a sure win to an epic nobel prize.

This month we invite to a masterclass on “Navigating toxic cultures and counterproductive workplace behavior” to walk you through on a how to approach to winning in our workplace.” if you are interested please sign up in the link below, and if you have any comments or suggestions, please write to us, and engage us on the comments below. We love your feedback.

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