Do these exist at your workplace?
The workplace would be perfect if it didn’t have people. Perhaps this very point is a key factor in the great robotic industrialization. While it’s true that mankind brings additional elements of stress, error, and frustration...it’s also true that we bring elements of soul, celebration, and satisfaction. People add passion and emotion to the workplace. We contribute the building blocks of collaboration and culture.
According to the Australian staffing agency, Sidekicker, they define workplace culture as “the mix of your organization’s leadership, values, traditions, beliefs, interactions, behaviors and attitudes that contribute to the emotional and relational environment.” Culture is a deeply personal and human contribution. When these individual pieces are healthy and in alignment, the culture is vibrant. When one of these pieces is unhealthy or out of alignment, the culture can become compromised.
Nothing impacts the workplace culture greater than leadership. However, the second greatest influencer to workplace culture is always behavior. The behaviors we endorse and allow directly influence every level and atom of the organization. As leaders, our job is to carefully keep watch over our organizations. We must have a keen radar for both the positive and life-giving behaviors that boost our organizations as well as the toxic behaviors that destroy it.
In this action article, I want to cover the four toxic behaviors you can’t afford to keep around. From my experience and expertise, it’s these four behaviors that create the most problems and headaches in the long run. The longer they go unaddressed, the more damage they create. Imagine how much destruction a boulder the size of a football field would cause if it fell 1,000 feet. The impact radius would be both deep and wide. Now imagine that same boulder falling from 2,000 or even 3,000 feet. It would be absolutely catastrophic! The more distance the boulder has to travel, the more velocity it creates. The more velocity it generates, the harder it hits. So it is with these toxic behaviors.
4 Toxic Behaviors You Must Eliminate
1 - Gossip. Many discount the extreme negative impact gossip can have in the workplace. While it may not ‘seem’ detrimental in the moment, the danger stems from its compound interest. Gossip creates cliques, destroys reputations, and poisons collaboration. When discovered, it should be immediately addressed. In my experience, gossip can be reduced by having stronger team ice breakers as well as great “get to know you” sessions. Gossip often stems from assumptions or unchecked insecurities. The power of team discovery sessions is that these experiences often provide better clarity. Clarity is the antidote to assumptions and insecurities.
2 - Arrogance. Every leader wants confident team members. It is critical for our people to feel empowered and good about their responsibilities as well as performance. However, there is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Confidence is the state of how one feels regarding their performance. Arrogance is the over-inflation of confidence regarding one’s performance...to the point of being unteachable. Arrogance is the opposite of humility. It refuses to own its imperfections, flaws, or mistakes. It’s completely closed off to learning new skills, abilities, or deeper levels of self-awareness. Arrogance directly opposes interdependence - the cornerstone of collaboration.
In his book, The Ideal Team Player, Pat Lencioni adds, “Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually. It is no great surprise, then, that humility is the single greatest and most indispensable attribute of being a team player.”
3 - Divisiveness. I recall hearing about the first major team meeting with a newly appointed senior director of a large non-profit organization. This leader had a powerful vision for this organization as well sharp strategic and operational experience. He was a catalytic leader in every way. But he knew that both vision and strategy would be useless without unity and collaboration. On his first major team meeting, he addressed how divisiveness would be handled if discovered. “Anyone caught being divisive will be cut down to their knees!” he boldly stated. While this may seem harsh, this group had some history of employing toxic team members who directly opposed leadership.
This new senior director made it clear that such behavior would not be tolerated. It’s safe to say that many leaders do not enjoy or prefer conflict. However, avoiding conflict is rarely a smart or safe option. In my coaching and consulting, I like to share a phrase I learned from my time as a relationship coach - “Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.” It is possible to address negative behavior in a respectful and professional manner. When confronting behaviors like divisiveness, it’s important to be professional but also stern. This is an issue that must not be tolerated. Give no wiggle room for this type of behavior and protect your team as well as your organization.
4 - Unethical. While this probably goes without saying, it still must be addressed. Our world is no stranger to witnessing the fall of great and powerful leadership. Our history has been littered with leaders who have made unethical or immoral decisions that have devastated organizations, industries, and communities. Nothing damages an organization, business, or cause greater than immoral or unethical decisions. It’s the fastest way to eradicate trust. Healthy workplace cultures are built on the pillars of clarity and accountability. Every team member must have clarity regarding the desired values, behaviors, and qualities expected. Every team member must be held accountable to those values, behaviors, and qualities as well. Perhaps the simplest and most powerful way to eliminate the temptation of unethical decisions is to celebrate the ethical and moral moments.
When we champion one another for doing the right thing, it creates a spirit of tangible heroism. When the bar is raised and every day people are recognized and rewarded for reaching it, the desire for others to reach it quickly spreads as well. Teams that take the time to huddle, share the good and hard decisions, invite feedback, and recognize wins help reinforce ethical and moral culture. Essentially, this practice stems from positive behavioral reinforcement. When it’s handled with authenticity and joy, it’s received with appreciation and satisfaction.
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