Toxic Disruption

Unless you run a print only newspaper or a cash only bookstore, the most disruptive force working against your organization is not technology driven. It’s toxic people driven.

For some unproven reason civility at work is at an all-time low. In 1998, 49% of workers reported rude treatment at least once a month. Today, it’s 62%!

The scientists tell us to pin the blame on increased stress that results from heightened competition and less free time (hello SmartPhone). I wonder if a large segment of people just crossed the barrier between get-ahead-at-all-cost and get-ahead-ethically.

Either way, the result is the same: toxic people screwing things up. Dale Carnegie is a has-been. Grandmother’s proverb—If you cannot say something nice, say nothing at all—fell victim to tweeting trolls.

We do not mean to say that snarky comments are the new organizational currency. Sarcasm is a wonderful gift that amuses us all in its place. I am not discussing sarcasm, but nasty, poisonous, soul-crushing, culture destroying vandalism against humane progress. Your business is at risk when you tolerate toxic people.

When productivity is the only measure or where mistrust is high, toxicity increases. Just one discouraged team member leaving because of such maladaptive behavior costs your organization $12,500. Wow.

Marks of toxic behavior include dismissive tone, barking orders, insensitivity toward personal traits, rudeness to colleagues and customers, bullying, demeaning, and cynicism. We’ve all seen it, and none of us who try to get along understand why the higher ups tolerate such asinine behavior.

Such nonsense permeates and corrupts a culture, decreases creativity and innovation, increases stress, decreases energy, decreases job satisfaction, and toxic behavior is catching. Like a flu sneeze in one’s face, someone seeing a toxic boss’s behavior often finds themselves replicating it. Ick.

And toxic leaders are replicating.

If you’re in charge, measure and fire the toxic people as fast as you can. If you’re the toxic boss, please stop killing your organization, moron.

To get healthy, a few suggestions. First, like when you encounter a feverish flu spreader—stay the hell away from toxic people! Second, if you hire, screen out bullies and screen in people with emotional intelligence. Third, set boundaries. Fourth, make sure that your people feel they’re heard, valued, and have some control over the civility in their workplace, all of which act like an immunity booster.

Questions for The Ethics Award

  1. How well have you screened out toxic people?
  2. What about your organization’s tolerance of (or promotion of) toxic people needs to change?
  3. How would you coach an organization to disrupt a toxic person’s agenda?

*Source: Psychology Today, June 2017

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