• Steve Doughty

Toxic culture doesn't just happen

We know the symptoms and sometimes even the cause, but if we are in a toxic work environment, we are part of the problem unless we choose not to be.

Ignoring toxic behaviour, engaging in toxic behaviour or standing on the sideline and calling it toxic behaviour, are all parts of keeping the culture alive.

It comes in many forms and is usually a combination of things like poor leadership or management, a lack of vision, poor or absent organisational values, a lack of trust, not being valued or a fear of making imperfect decisions.

We frequently describe toxic culture as "politics", so what are these politics?

That is easy, it is self serving behaviour. Self serving behaviour from leadership sidelines people and sidelined people frequently engage in self serving behaviour to protect themselves.

It is a vicious cycle, but toxic cultures can be repaired. Self does not value others, the most basic of human needs, and the key to working successfully together. We are all skilled differently but our value is something we all have in equal share. Deviating from that understanding is a toxic culture in the making.

How do we deal with it? Sometimes we have to walk away and sometimes we can be part of the solution. The solution starts with being confident of who we are and knowing our values are important to us and accepting the diversity of opinion around us is not a game of who is right and who is wrong. Then we can start with not tolerating politics or abuse and ensuring that we are not adding to the problem by the way we act and speak.

We also have to weigh up what is most important to us, our position in the organisation or our part in the organisation. It is important for us to understand that a lot of self serving behaviour and toxic culture comes from our definition of success and our desire to get there at any cost. Other people are frequently that cost and it is not a currency we should trade in.

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