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Simple Steps to Begin Transforming a Negative, Toxic Workplace


Last weeks’s blog article on the 3 Reasons Employees Undermine Co-Workers, Stab Each Other in the Back and Act Passive Aggressive struck quite a nerve. I received a number of direct e-mail comments, not so many here on the blog, though. Interesting.

Anyway, comments were in the vein of “Skip, this is great stuff, but what can we do about it? How do we fix this problem?”

Well, the good news is that solution is simple. The bad news is, its not that easy to implement.

Fixing these issues in a work environment takes what Pat Lencioni, author ofThe 5 Dysfunctions of a Team calls, “heavy lifting.” Heavy lifting means dealing with some challenging issues head on that have probably been avoided for an extended period of time. The heavy lifting will be mostly on the part of the organization’s or team’s leadership, but certainly also all team members.

My recommendation for fixing this begins from the bottom up. Here are the 3 reasons I mentioned in last week’s blog article for why employees undermined their co-workers, stab each other in the back and act passive aggressively often with an “it’s not my job attitude:”

  1. Low self-esteem
  2. Lack of communication skills
  3. Enabling of the behavior

So from the bottom up we have to start by stopping the enabling of the behaviors.

This tarts with giving everyone, and I mean everyone a clean slate and the benefit of the doubt. Easy to say, not so easy to do, right? But, that is what it takes.

Plus, its the right thing to do and here’s why:

1) If the behavior has been enabled in the environment for any length of time for it to become a toxic work environment, it is the leaders fault. They have chosen to allow these behaviors to go unaddressed for a significant amount of time. Everyone knows what’s going on and who the perpetrators are. Most everyone, including the leader just wish and hope it gets better and usually it just gets worse, right?

So, instead of trying to close the barn door after the horses have run out, let’s corral the horses and build a new barn for them to live in.

Everyone starts tomorrow with a clean slate. Everyone.

With that clean slate comes new performance and behavior expectations. These new performance and behavior  expectations must be well thought out in advance and strategized so that a new expectation is created and set in the minds of everyone from the very beginning.

If this is something you think you need to do for your team/organization and would like some help go to and investigate if a private, 1:1 strategy session is something you would benefit from. I’m happy to strategize with you how to make this happen effectively.

Chances are the leaders are going to need some skill development in their influencing communication skills to be able to pull this off effectively and to be able to have the type of candid conversations necessary to make it work.

Additionally, this would lead to improving #2 in the list from last week, giving everyone on the team the communication skills necessary to influence their own relationships and work environment in a positive, candid and proactive manner.

It would also begin to turn around reason #1 in last week’s list, low levels of self-esteem, in the manager or leader, as one of the best ways to increase self-esteem is to improve skills and competencies.

Hope this helps. Please let me know what you think and leave a comment below.

’til next time, make it a great week!


Skip Weisman

2058 N Mills Ave, #532 Claremont, CA 91711
Phone 909-630-3943
Fax 909-563-1803
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