Overcoming Corrosives Company Culture


Company culture is one of the prevailing causes of stress, according to almost half of senior HR professionals surveyed in an influential poll that suggests significant differences in the ways employees and businesses view mental health in the workplace.


The report, from insurer MetLife, found 45 per cent of HR professionals believed their organisational culture caused stress, although 40 per cent said they were working to create a ‘caring and inclusive’ culture.


All jobs have some level of stress — even on good days. However, if going to work (or just the thought of going to work) makes you tired, depressed, or even physically ill, that’s more than just general work stress – these are signs of a toxic work environment.


It takes courage and commitment to disrupt a toxic culture. It’s best done by moving swiftly, with a clearly defined course and employee involvement. As an organisation’s employees succeed in becoming more aware of their and others’ behaviours, its culture becomes a self-reinforcing system.


It’s important to be aware of what toxicity looks like in its early stages. Gossiping, territorialism, cliques, defensiveness, hiding mistakes, resistance to change, fear of risk, passive-aggressive communication, avoiding feedback and withholding of information all lead to insecurity and a fundamental lack of trust.


“When we’re struggling with insecurity at work, we need to be able to be vulnerable with our co-workers. We need trust. Without it, people stop being themselves, they stop engaging in open and constructive dialogue”


When there is genuine trust, we feel ok to bring our whole selves to work – showing up authentically, leading with humility, and remembering that we’re all vulnerable, imperfect human beings doing the best we can.

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It’s also about having the courage to take risks, speak up, ask for help and connect with others. It’s not always easy, especially at work. It takes commitment and courage for leaders and organisations to create environments that are conducive to this type of authenticity and humanity, and that foster the level of trust that allows us to be ourselves.


When we don’t bring our whole selves to work, we suffer – there’s a lack of engagement, a lack of productivity, and our well-being is diminished.


We can’t do our best, most innovative work, and we waste too much time trying to look good, fit in, and do or say the “right” thing.


For teams and organisations, this lack of psychological safety makes it difficult for the group or company to thrive and perform at its highest level because people are holding back some of who they really are. When there is psychological safety, employee productivity and engagement are guaranteed to increase.


We can do something to turn around a toxic culture – encourage trust.


We can take steps to significantly increase the level of trust in our cultures by using personality-based learning experiences.


For more than 15 years, Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, has been one of Amazon’s best sellers. The foundation of his model for building cohesive, high-functioning teams is trust.


There are many ways to do this, but one that Lencioni and his team have been using consistently for decades is an intense group discussion using the results of each member’s personality assessment as a way to start really getting to know and trust each other. He writes:


“Some of the most effective and lasting tools for building trust on a team are profiles of team

members’ behavioural preferences and personality styles. These help to break down barriers by allowing people to better understand and empathise with one another.”


When we help individuals, teams and organisations create a trusting environment, we free those human beings up to thrive – to engage and connect with each other more fully, more authentically and, ultimately, to contribute their hearts, minds and talents to something worthy of their energy.


As Lencioni says “Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage”. Don’t let that resource go untapped.


About the Author

Jo North works with organisations to help them make the most of their employees using simple, yet powerful and practical models that empower team members to be the very best they can be at work, whilst remaining true to themselves. Thriving through self-awareness is Jo’s passion so that every employee can reach his or her full potential and be happier at work and in life. www.itda.com


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