Article 43


Friday, February 11, 2011

Toxic Workplace

What Is A Toxic Workplace?

Here’s one definition:

A workplace where there is total focus on the bottom-line and it’s leadership has forgotten that though the bottom line is important, far more important is our humanity, our human-ness, our spirit as individuals and as a collective.

It is a workplace that has not learned to balance the need for profits with concern about the heart and soul of its people.

How Do You Know A Workplace Is Toxic?

People go there to do what they feel they have to do (with minimum effort) in order to pick up their wage. They get the heck out of there as fast as they can (the most dangerous place to be is at the front door at finishing time) so they can go and be and do what it is that really excites and engages them.

Even organizations that look and feel like they are extremely successful: high profits, a charismatic and well-thought of CEO, brightness of future, its people say it’s a wonderful company to work in, can carry elements of TOXICITY.

Here Are Some Signs Of A Toxic Workplace

High Absenteeism (except for those too scared to take time off sick)

High Turnover (except for those that CAN’T FIND a new job)

Slovenly or poorly performed work

Turf wars and OTHER TYPES of conflict

Verbal or physical INTIMIDATION

Sexist or racist comments

Foul language

High workers compensation claims (except for those too afraid to file)

People not turning up to social functions (unless bullied by the boss to show up)

High number of personality conflicts

People refusing/avoiding overtime where before they were willing to pitch in

Sure, short-term organizations that have some of these symptoms may achieve results but it is unlikely they will become a great company that is still here in 100 years.

In the investigation into the Atlantis Shuttle Disaster in which seven people died it was stated ...

“the agency’s willingness to continue flying without fixing these problems is part of a failed organizational culture that must be fixed if the shuttle is to return safely to flight. NASA engineers, they say, are too willing to assume the best, in order to keep the shuttle flying and control costs” (Reported in the Orlando Sentinel 27/8/3)

Most of us work in environments that may not see such startling displays of the results of being a toxic workplace, however, the effects of toxicity are no less tragic to the day-to-day lives of the people who are living within them. It is insidious day-by-day soul death, rather than in-your-face instant physical death.

Many people have become, in their workplace, the living dead.

You have a responsibility both as corporate citizen and as an individual to do what you can to engage the heart and soul of the people you interact with each day.

It is your moral obligation to value human dignity and respect over the traditional bottom-line. Certainly profits are exceptionally important, but not more so than the people who are helping you to deliver them.

You may well be asking:

“Why should we bother with this stuff?

We’ve been doing okay for a lot of years”.

So to divert for a quick moment: “How did you get to work today?” Quite possibly it was by car. Why didn’t you use a horse and cart?

“What did you do last night when you wanted light in a room?” Did you flick a switch or light a candle? For hundreds and hundreds of years people used candles to light their way and horses to get them from Point A to Point B. So why don’t we still use them?

Simply because we have found newer and better ways. Once people have seen others read by flicking a light switch and being brightly illuminated - a candle is no longer good enough; Once they have seen someone get from Point A to Point B in 10 minutes vs 2 hours - a horse is no longer good enough.

The organizations that will survive in to the future are those that understand the need to respect and dignify the heart and soul of the people who work there. Organizations who give as much focus to human spirit and dignity as they do to the bottom-line. Why? Because the people who are entering organizations now demand that it be so.

In fact, you probably don’t have the choice to stick with the traditional toxic model. Gen Xers and Gen Ys will not allow you to go back to the traditional ‘candle’. They will expect to have the switch flicked. The baby-boomers are slowly moving from the workplace, and being replaced by the dot.comers. You have only a few years before your current business model, if it produces the signs of a toxic workplace, is no longer relevant.

Is it easy to change from being a toxic workplace to a high performance workplace?

Yes and No. But if you want people in your company who are filled with passion - and who stick around then you’d better get changing!

Besides, leading and participating in a non-toxic workplace is a much nicer. You spend at least 1/3rd of your life at work - and work certainly has a great impact on the rest of your life - so why not be a good leader implement the strategies and systems that help make work a passionate, energizing place to be.


Posted by Elvis on 02/11/11 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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