It has been an astounding year for bad behavior at work. Stunning allegations (and clear evidence) of multiple forms of abuse have become commonplace – causing human resources and legal teams both to handle high profile crisis situations. The inevitable fallout from workers directly or indirectly are affected by these deeds. We don’t consider ourselves at QwikCoach.com either naive nor easy to shock but we have to agree that this article was more than a little disturbing: “20 Workplace Horror Stories That Will Absolutely Shock You”. We don’t believe this tough situation needs to continue to escalate.
No one envies HR/Legal with their burden and responsibility to develop strategies and more specific procedures to stop, or at least mitigate, future situations that threaten the civility and decency of the workplace. We support their work and deem it an essential step in righting the toxic workplace. But what’s the role for typical managers, team leaders, coaches and individual contributors who – while not responsible for making ultimate decisions about the fate of any given abuser – have to deal on a daily basis with increasing toxic work environments?
This question begs another challenging question: are there new and different strategies to utilize now given heightened interest in creating high performance work environments where people actually feel safe, appreciated, and yes — engaged? Yes in the sense that it is now clear that it is important for everyone in every organization to take personal responsibility to “blow the whistle” when confronted or observing illegal or indecent workplace behavior. We highly support making norms clearer and supporting zero tolerance for what is clearly and demonstrably bad behavior.
But we say no in the sense that what is seriously needed right now is a fresh but not entirely new, well-researched approach to building high engagement, high performance, positive work cultures that continually focus on every employee feeling respected and supported. Yawn. Blah Blah Blah. Not so fast! We (meaning all professionals in staff development and workplace excellence) DO know what works, we DO know what does not, and we DO know how to dramatically increase decent, civil, and positive workplaces. It essentially requires a serious commitment of time, consistent energy, and funding to an overall strategy of building a high performance workplace. It works by coaching and training the managers and leaders (and individual performers at all levels) to behave in ways that are positive, sensible, and sensitive. What is new is the creation of more affordable and better self-coaching and learning tools to assist with this effort.
An article on Monster caught my attention. “The ‘Terrible 10’ Behaviors in the Workplace” suggests that creation and support of civility as a replacement for toxic workplaces can be a definite asset in building these high performance and highly positive workplaces. Again we agree. As workplace experts on creating high performance workplaces, we are continually seeking to help advise and provide concrete tools to individuals and organizations to improve individual performance and cultures. It will not happen by itself, nor will it happen by outlining everything not permitted or allowed.
It will happen with people taking personal responsibility because the organization has given them the tools to know what to do, and how to behave, and supports that ongoing awareness and action in every way. From compensation plans that reward doing things right, workplace rewards like promotions being awarded fairly and to those best able to demonstrate excellence in leadership, to the providing of coaching and learning support tools to keep people growing in their ability to be civil, smart and robust learners. This includes those who understand that their organization really does want, and will consistently support, the better workplaces that we know can evolve given concrete help – not just words and platitudes.
Managers, leaders, and individual performers can and should be concretely helping people develop into better acting human beings. Some can provide the intellectual and humane leadership (see Sheryl Sandberg and Howard Schultz for examples) and many can continue to support appropriate and productive behavior. They do so by being role models of sound behavior and providing access to resources that provide the advice and direction to do what’s right and what’s always been in the best interests of responsible businesses and the people who work in them.
Dr. Pat Gill Webber