5 Toxic Behaviours That Are Killing Your Workplace

Identify the toxic behaviours that You notice at the workplace and analyze what is it costing you and the business?

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By Sharat Sharma


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Leaders at many organizations talk about the struggle to find the right talent pool, attrition and losing talent to a competitor. If we take a pause and look deeper, the real reason could be simple. Yet very few organizations take time to analyze the issue rather they look for a quick fix and end up causing more damage. In fact, any attempt to provide a fix to these problems without looking into the root cause will only be a shot in the dark.

Interestingly, there are organizations which attract talent without much struggle, have least attrition number and never bother about losing talent to the competitors. So what could be the reason one organization struggles whereas the other one succeeds?

One reason that stands out is the Culture in the organizations. Culture is the character of any organization. The biggest threat that most organizations face while building the culture is the toxic behaviours in the workplace. When toxic behaviours are tolerated it not only leads to good talent leaving the organization but you fail to attract the right talent.

Many argue that it becomes difficult to address toxic behaviours when someone brings technical expertise but lacks people-centric behaviour. Technical expertise directly impacts the business results whereas people-centric behaviour is the invisible factor that drives the results. You cannot let a technical expert go as it directly impacts the business which can be measured and end up tolerating the not so people-centric behaviour which is the invisible force which cannot be measured.

The challenge with most leaders is that instead of building and continuously monitoring the culture of empowerment, encouragement, and enablement they tolerate the toxic behaviours. This leads to a toxic culture affecting the engagement levels, attrition, disengagement, and eventually the growth of the organization.

Here are the 5 Toxic Behaviours That Are Killing Your Workplace

1) Positional Power Over Shared Purpose

The fact is the modern day workforce is looking for meaningful work and acknowledgement. They want to be part of teams that are inspired and the one that contributes to the shared purpose of the organization. If the organization culture is governed by the positional power which leads to biased behaviours, power politics, etc it only exemplifies that the leadership has failed to build the foundation of organization with a shared purpose.

2) Escalation Metrics Over Engagement Metrics

A very common practice today is a loss of meaningful connections among team members. The practice of escalation emails over fellow team members or on the member seated on the same floor only defines the poor level of engagement and connections among the workforce. Such practices often lead to a poor level of motivation and commitment to work.

If in weekly and monthly meetings/ discussions escalation metrics takes precedence over engagement metrics we surely know that the organization is sidetracked from its primary objective and will eventually fail to deliver. Leaders must focus on building better engagement models and measure them more often.

3) Competition Over Collaboration

While many believe creating a culture of competition motivates and inspires others to out-perform, you cannot stay ignorant about the counterproductive behaviour like with-holding information, blame-game, gossiping, etc. They are a result of unhealthy competition in the workplace. The language of competition puts collaboration in the back seat causing more damage than help to the eco-system. It creates more inertia in the overall organization's performance.

4) Task Busyness Over People Business

Without any doubt, tasks must be given high priority and client's satisfaction is a critical success factor of any business. However, the busyness in task often overtakes the people business. People are the most important asset of any organization, investing in their growth, training and developing them must be treated as a full-time business. It is as crucial as if not more important than task busyness. If tasks completion overtakes people development business we sabotage the talent metrics and overall performance of the employees.

5) Expertise over Empathy

While most people argue that finding certain rare expertise is difficult and they are irreplaceable if lost to the competition. And often such experts are treated as indispensable and tolerated. No, it should not be. Often such employees become the bottlenecks and treat others with the least empathy. They do not share their learning and create a toxic culture among others. It is important to address such bottlenecks which can cause irreplaceable damage to the workplace.

Leaders take a moment to share this article with your fellow leaders and ask them to identify the toxic behaviours that they notice at the workplace and analyze what is it costing you and the business?

Sharat Sharma

Co-founder, IAM Human Capital Consulting

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