A lot of things can contribute to a toxic work environment – unfair treatment, lack of trust, unrealistic expectations, and discrimination, to name a few. These aren’t new problems, but some elements about the work we do today has brought them more into focus. The rise of social media is a factor, and the pandemic has led to significant changes in the nature of work in a short period of time. People also seem less likely to tolerate toxic workplaces these days, possibly due to increased conversations on the topic and the ability to work remotely for companies anywhere.
The Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, has weighed in on toxic workplaces, which points to the fact that this issue is affecting people’s health and may be considered a crisis situation. If you want to avoid being a toxic workplace, one basic step is to draft clear values about how you treat each other internally, communicate them, and enforce them.
When dealing with a bully in the workplace, let them go if it’s in your power. Bullying behavior shouldn’t be tolerated by your organization. If not, treat them with kindness and try to get to a point where you can function together, and if that doesn’t work, escalate it to leaders and/or HR. If the bully is your manager, have a conversation with them. Avoid “you” statements, document everything, and think about how you would want someone to approach you if you were in the manager’s shoes. If that doesn’t help, it may be time to leave the organization.
Similarly, if you want to alert your supervisor to hypocrisy in their behavior, try not to use “you” statements, lay out the facts, and avoid judgment. Come from a place of caring. Give your manager the benefit of the doubt if they’re showing favoritism; it’s human nature, and they probably aren’t doing it intentionally. Let them know what your feelings and perceptions are, because they likely don’t want you to be feeling that way.
In this episode’s listener question, we’re asked about how to handle an investigation where no concrete solution or conclusion is found. In the news, legislators and the CFPB are looking at employee training repayment agreements as an employer-driven form of debt.
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