From Toxic To Thriving: Transforming Organizational Culture

By: Eric Betts

In the bustling corridors of corporate offices and the hushed cubicles of startups, toxicity festers like a silent virus. It infiltrates conversations, corrodes camaraderie, and stifles innovation. Just as a polluted river chokes the life within it, a toxic workplace culture impedes progress, sapping creativity and draining the reservoir of productivity. From subtle micro-aggressions to blatant power plays, the toxicity seeps into every crevice, leaving employees disenchanted and organizations shackled.

Leadership, like a compass guiding a ship through turbulent waters, holds immense power to shape organizational culture. Yet, too often, leaders unwittingly become passengers, blissfully unaware of the tempest brewing around them. Avoidance and cluelessness become their default modes, perpetuating toxicity. Instead, leaders must don the mantle of vigilant observers—attuned to the subtle tremors, the hushed grievances, and the unspoken tensions. Their duty lies not in averting their gaze but in confronting the storm head-on. Only then can they steer their teams toward calmer seas, fostering an environment where growth thrives and productivity flourishes.

Vaishali Badgujar, a content and SEO specialist at Time Doctor, an employee-friendly time-tracking system that boosts productivity, provides a comprehensive list of often unaddressed toxic workplace behavior in one of her many articles. She says that “negative workplace culture is one that harms the well-being, productivity, or morale of the employees.” Some examples she offers concerning negative workplace culture are:

· Bullying, gossiping, or forming cliques that exclude or spread rumors about other employees

· Poor communication and unclear expectations that lead to confusion, frustration, or missed deadlines

· Dictatorial management that does not listen to feedback, values, or ideas from the employees

· Lack of core values or inconsistency between the stated values and the actual behavior of the leaders or the organization

· Excessive absenteeism, illness, or fatigue among the employees due to stress, burnout, or dissatisfaction

· Condescending tones are one way of expressing disrespect and undermining others’ confidence and self-esteem. Some signs of condescending behavior are over-explaining, name-dropping, using demeaning nicknames, interrupting, assuming one is ignorant due to faulty stereotypes and equating experiences, according to Natalie Hamrick, who writes extensively on workplace dynamics on her blog, particularly in her article on “How To Deal With Condescending Colleagues.”

In order to maximize team-building, productivity and success, leaders must be willing learners concerning their own behavior as well as being vigilant about workplace attitudes and behaviors. They must first be clear about their own workplace codes and rules, and enforce them equally and consistently. Lack of clarity and favoritism within the leadership can have a ripple effect in the workplace. Even if the headwinds of toxicity are strong, blowing against efforts to implement change, don’t give up. It is an ongoing work.

As the dust settles and the echoes of change reverberate, the transformation becomes palpable. Toxic behaviors, once entrenched, have been confronted and dismantled. The leaders’ unwavering commitment to vigilance has borne fruit—a culture of respect, empathy, and collaboration now blooms. Employees breathe easier, shoulders unburdened by the weight of toxicity. The ripple effect extends beyond office walls, touching not only productivity metrics but also individual well-being. In this renewed landscape, progress surges forth, fueled by the collective resolve to nurture a workplace where growth thrives and humanity prevails.

By: Eric Betts

Udemy Instructor in Religion, Leadership and Ethics