Everyone seems to really like you. You’re always supportive, never negative and never stop expressing your appreciation for the work that goes on around you. Whether your role is boss or employee, you understand that making your coworkers feel great is a necessary component of a healthy business. Yet, things aren’t great in the office. People talk behind others’ backs, apparent cliques now exist, HR seems on edge, and favoritism is running rampant. Though you try your hardest to promote a happy, healthy environment, no one can respond because of the severe level of toxicity wiping away your attempt at appreciation. Toxicity kills any opportunity for appreciation in business.
Toxicity is a fear of every work environment. It’s something that can be sparked by an action as simple as a bad hire, leading to a snowball effect where resentment and frustration slowly build up into a boiling point, making productivity decline and good workers quit. Possibly the worst part about it is the fact that it drowns out any positivity that tries to steer things back on course. You could be the most appreciative employee to have ever existed, but without a healthy environment to express that in, your actions won’t be realized. In the end, sometimes the best form of thanks is to stop toxicity before it starts rather than focus on appreciation.
If it seems pressure is rising in the office, the first step is to identify where it’s coming from. Is it one person? Was it sparked by an event that resulted in unresolved feelings? Finding the source is an integral part of diffusing the situation. It alerts everyone to the problem, giving the entire office a cause to rally behind, once again unifying the culture. Just be sure this unification doesn’t go too far and result in a witch hunt. Over aggression when trying to find an answer tends to be just as harmful to the people involved as ignoring the situation at hand.
Assuming the problem is emanating from an employee or group of employees, it’s time to practice empathy. Sit them down in a private setting and discuss the situation at hand. Much like identifying where the toxicity was coming from in the office, steer conversation toward figuring out why the employee was acting so negatively in the first place. While it would be a wonderful world where people could immediately identify and deal with their emotions, many individuals simply don’t understand how to analyze what they feel in such a way that results in determining why they’re feeling the way they do.
In addition, be patient through this process. Many times, toxic behavior stems from a personal place, and the employee needs time to trust you enough to open up honestly about what is going on. Sometimes, the problem isn’t even work-related but they haven’t had anywhere else to go about their life stressors. If it isn’t emotional and the employee simply lacks the maturity to properly handle various situations at work, it could very well mean some sort of disciplinary action is required.
It’s not fair to your other employees if one person refuses to change their toxic attitude. Though acceptable to give the person a chance to change the problems discussed with them, it’s not acceptable to keep them on when they’ve clearly proven their unwillingness to change. After you’ve spoken with them and highlighted exactly what they’re doing and why it needs to stop, give them time to adjust. If they don’t, it’s time to let them go.
I’m not a human resource expert so I’ll leave the next step to those that do have that expertise.
Kerri Pollard, past president of Commission Junction, stated at a recent Affiliate Summit keynote, “Don’t tolerate the brilliant jerk. It will cost you too much in teamwork.”
She is so right.
Occasionally, the source of the negativity doesn’t stem from an employee but upper management. It’s in this situation where controlling and stopping the bad habits is essential for company survival. Everything done by upper management trickles down, affecting every single employee no matter their position on the ladder. Do your best to manage upward. Ask good managers with influence to help stave off the toxic behavior. This can even be as simple as keeping them removed from any and all meetings and filtering their messages to the staff.
The flip side of this situation is that senior staff usually doesn’t face any kind of threat even when told about their behavior. This then leads to a system lacking accountability where those in power can abuse their position. If they won’t change, the answer then may be to move on to a company that prides itself in a healthy culture and respects those that show appreciation.
Other times the source of frustration comes for poor internal processes. If, for instance, the process for ordering a new part for a machine in a manufacturing company is long and complicated resulting in a decrease of production the part orderer gets yelled at for, it’s understandable that a level of resentment would build up over time.
This is arguably the easiest form of toxicity to deal with as it’s not a person causing the issue. All it takes to fix is a reform of how requests are processed, something that can be implemented in days.
No matter how kind you are to others and no matter your rung on the corporate ladder, your appreciation cannot break through an office muddied by toxicity. This is why it is of the utmost importance to keep the culture happy by knowing how to deal with the different types of negativity that can arise. Keep this under control, and your employees will finally feel the full weight of the admiration you hold for each and every one of them.