Is Your Work Environment Toxic Or Unicorns And Rainbows In Maine? (OPINION)
Work is a place that most of us either go to every day and do every day. Some workplaces are great and some, not so much. How about yours?
L.Lavon Gray, Ph.D. recently wrote an article that made its way to Forbes magazine, manifesting signs of a toxic workplace, which prompted me to wonder how your workplace fares.
You can have the greatest job in the world, absolutely love what you do, but if the environment is toxic, to say the least, then you will no doubt find that the thrill will quickly wane and, eventually, be gone.
Dr. Gray points to five traits of 'cultural toxicity' that many try to, but rarely are able to turn a blind eye to.
It's All About Me!!!! (Workplace Silo)
A lack of collaboration and focus on protecting self-interests is one definition of a workplace silo. You've seen it before and it can be really bad if someone is promoted to a mid-level management or department management position. You are no longer the focus, but the managers positioning for the next rung on the company ladder is!
This will cause departmental and company dysfunction quicker than anything else. I worked in a well-known company and overheard the department supervisor nearly crying to her crew about how they were not doing their jobs, making her look bad, etc.
Her focus was on herself and not her leadership skills which is what caused the huge problems in her department. Insomuch that good people, who had been with the company for many years, finally quit and left the company.
I thought to myself, "She just lost all credibility with her team." And she did, but that didn't matter because the executive team saw her as a shining star and she was eventually promoted over many departments. To this day, she is still there.
DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA!
Anyone can probably appreciate some good 'street theatre' if you will, but the drama has no place in the workplace. But yet it seems to be ubiquitous.
Dr. Gray says that some businesses and organizations need to award Oscars, instead of bonuses. And I have to agree. Conflict management is the name of the game and it is certainly not a healthy style of management. Hypersensitivity, grandstanding, and the whole ignorance of the 'political correctness' culture in any department or organization seems to pull employees into an endless cycle of this management style.
I know there are a lot of star-crazed people out there, but bringing the Hollywood Drama into the workplace will not make for a healthy work environment.
Backstabbers Are More Prolific Than Handshakers
The O'Jay's used to sing a song in the 70's called, "Back Stabbers." Some of the lyrics say, "They smile in your face, All the time they want to take your place, the backstabbers."
Oh, how true this is in a toxic workplace!!! "And how!", I might add.
When you see your fellow co-workers trying to undermine one another, butt-kissing with the boss all the time, and any other toxic idiosyncrasies, you'll have no foundation of respect for the individual.
And don't think other employees don't notice that type of behavior.
If someone begins a sentence with, "Don't tell anyone, but...." be very wary of what their ulterior motive is. Dr. Gray calls it the 'sniper mentality', meaning that the individual is setting you up for an ambush that you may regret later.
Remember, if they are talking about someone else to you, then they are probably talking to someone else about you too. Run! Don't get sucked in and be the next victim of a workplace ambush from the 'sniper in the bush.'
Instability At The Top
Dr. Gray refers to this as the "leadership conveyer belt." Meaning, if leaders don't seem to stick around very long, there is, no doubt, a good reason for it. They seem to drop off the end of the conveyer belt just as quick as they landed on it.
Either the top is unable to select good leadership in the company or in your department or the culture in which that good leader has been placed into does not allow them to succeed.
I worked in a place where you couldn't help but think that the next hire was really the next victim. When the people at the top can't look at their failures as to why a workplace is toxic, then you are fighting a losing battle and eventually, you could be the next workplace casualty.
In many companies, workers cannot expect a change in a toxic, poor-managed environment, until people in upper leadership leave or retire.
Many don't want to admit this, but it is true.
Unless major changes are made, don't expect anything to change and the next 'leader' they hire will probably last a short while and then be gone.
It's a vicious cycle and needs a good enema at the top!
Protecting The Status Quo - Another way to say this would be, "Circling the Wagons."
A former creative consultant at Disney, Derric Johnson, stated that when your memories are greater than your dreams, it's time for a change. Sadly, too many companies are more concerned with the protection of the status quo or spend too much time reminiscing about the 'good old days' of the past.
Leaders on all levels should be talking to their co-workers about the better days ahead, rather than the good days gone by. You can't live in the past and you certainly can't grow a good, productive company there either.
The Bottom Line
No one need tell you that these types of work cultures will lead and have lead to dysfunctional, oppressive and unhealthy work environments.
Dr. Gray suggests that you need to identify what is the cause of the toxicity if you want to find an effective solution which promotes healthy work environments.
If that is not an option, you may want to find a good exit strategy. But, whatever you do, make sure you exit correctly. There is no excuse to sacrifice your good work ethic and habits for the sake of losing battles that can't be one in your current company.