The Toxic Workplace – Creating a “Toxic Shield”

23-02-2010 | steve | Uncategorized |

As we enter another decade, the pressure on organizations to survive, sustain growth and boost profits within new economic realities has resulted in increased stress on leaders and employees. Mergers, globalization and declining returns have launched waves of job cuts creating leaner companies. Surviving employees are left with far greater workloads. And the need for leadership is just as great!

Amid the chaos of relentless demands, conflicting priorities, poor communication and a lack of recognition looms the opportunity for escalating discontent. Over a long period of time that can fester and become toxic, affecting the health of both the organization and, most notably, the employees within leading to low morale, lack of co-operation, conflict, apathy and hostility. Left unchecked, these symptoms of a toxic workplace make it difficult for business leaders and teams to run the organization and compete effectively in the marketplace.

To fend off toxicity, a toxic shield can be set up by applying strong leadership at each level; the individual, teams, and the organization as a whole. And during stressful times, all three contribute to create an environment that is unhealthy and unproductive.

Here are three steps to help you get started forging your toxic shield

ONE - Clearly define the goals, roles and resources required for success as an organization. Couple that with a compelling vision for your business that will bind the members of the organization together, working towards a common goal. To reinforce the vision, ensure your leadership demonstrates the organizational values, making them evident and integrated throughout the entire business; performance appraisal systems, rewards and recognition programs, team development, training and day-to-day operational procedures.

TWO – Ensure that teams understand how their tasks contribute to the organizations goals and the day-to-day operational needs of the company. Translate goals and needs into action using corporate values as a guideline. Set team norms or guidelines to enable team members to hold each other accountable for BADhaviours and BADitiudes. Leaders, in turn, must hold teams accountable for their efforts and tie systems such as performance appraisal, promotion and recognition to the values to generate greater alignment and commitment.

THREE – Focus on the individual. Employees may feel they are a long way down the corporate food chain. Shorten the distance by interacting with individuals on a personal level. Eliminate the elements which fuel a toxic personality: intimidation, rudeness, incivility, rumour mongering, self interest. These are only a small list of BADhaviours that can rapidly turn pockets of negativity into a widespread poisonous workplace, making it unbearable for everyone.

AND A BONUS – Consider that you might be part of the problem.  Management guru, Max Depree once said, “The performance of the team is the only real proof of leadership,” so if the team is faltering, maybe your leadership ability is lacking.  Show some “personal” leadership and seek feedback, coaching and further training. Be open to the possibility that your personal values and that of the company are not aligned and it is time to make changes or seek other employment before termination becomes a viable option.

Let’s face it; organizations are focused on the bottom line and that is good as many dreams and aspirations are dependent on the economic success of a company. Earning a living is difficult enough without the personal harm that comes from a toxic workplace. Setting up a toxic shield, through proactive leadership, will go a long way towards protecting your employees, reduce anxieties and improve productivity. The challenge is how long you will wait before you take action?