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24 Sep 2021

Alawfultruth: The danger of toxic work environments

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September 24, 2021 Category: Commentary Posted by:

I was sitting in a meeting some weeks ago and gently explaining a position that I had when I was suddenly cut short by one of my peers. It seems he believed that I was wrong, not entitled to my opinion, and was defiant in wanting to shut me down, because he erroneously thought I was making no sense. Did I say that was just his opinion?

I found his abrasiveness to be off-putting and refused to back off my statement and added fuel to his fire by refusing to be quiet simply because he said so.

As he kept trying to talk over me, I kept refusing to allow him to do so; when another person interjected to try and reason with his sensibility, he told the person they were wrong, too.

I stood my ground, and he finally quieted down so I could get my point across. The result of that conversation, however, was a level of discomfort in the meeting and I was left with the feeling that one should be careful what they say around certain people, if they didn’t want to be told they were wrong or “mansplained” to death.

Unfortunately for this person, my will was stronger than his bullying tactics.

I was struck by the behavior and asked just how long this kind of thing was happening, since I missed many of these meetings because of work. I was surprised by the answers I received.

It seems far too often in many of these workspaces, women especially are made to feel that they should know their place and to never speak up unless they wanted to be made examples of. Quite simply, that is known as a toxic work environment.

So many employees walk away from jobs for this very reason, mainly due to the lack of effort on their manager’s part to set the tone and reinforce a positive workplace culture when they see these kinds of behaviors taking place.

In an article written by Beth Shiva in 2019 regarding a report by The Society for Human Resource Management, (SHRM), the following was noted: “Toxic workplaces — where employees dread going to work, don’t feel they can be honest with their manager, and may witness or experience sexual harassment or age discrimination — are a primary reason workers quit their jobs,” Shiva wrote. “They often hold the managers in their workplaces responsible for creating the toxicity.”

In July, SHRM commissioned research on toxic workplace cultures and what happens to the employees who work in them. “The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture: How Culture Impacts the Workforce — and the Bottom Line,” released last week, found that many workers consider culture and managers to be closely connected. In fact, 58% of employees who quit a job due to workplace culture say that their managers are the main reason they ultimately left. And the cost of this turnover? $223 billion in the past five years.

“Lack of communication [between managers and workers] is a leading contributor to the culture issues facing many organizations,” the SHRM report notes. “Managers are in a prime position to build strong and positive workplaces by listening to employees, holding workers and leaders accountable for their actions, setting expectations, and clarifying information. ”When workers are not held accountable for their actions and when managers are not setting expectations and clarifying information, meetings end in an ambivalent state and employees walk away feeling they should say nothing, as it would not make a difference. As a direct result, to stave off employee turnover, a temperature should be taken of the organization for current staff and exit interviews should be conducted with new practices and procedures put in place to create a warm and inclusive environment for all within the organizational structure.

We must not continue to allow people who are fully accomplished, fully degreed and who have carried years of expertise, to be diminished in a corner just because a manager who refused to use their emotional intelligence in appropriate ways said so. We must also stand up in solidarity with each other in times like these, instead of remaining silent to protect our income, if not our sanity. We must come to expect and demand better of our workplace culture, because after all, it is where we spend a large amount of our day, and productivity suffers when it is ignored.

Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, The Philadelphia Sunday SUN, the author’s organization, committee or other group or individual.

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