Work Toxicity: Being the Change

Would you rather:

A) Work in a happy, joyous environment with zero toxicity; lower wage?

B) Work in a highly toxic, stressful environment filled with tension; higher wage?


Do wages even influence work toxicity? I don’t really think so, though, I do know that work toxicity influences employees’ happiness and output.


If stakeholders are part of an organization with the same goal in mind, what triggers certain members of that very organization to form toxic perceptions, behaviors, and attitudes? In fact, who is to blame for such toxic-ness? The employees? The supervisors? The CEO?


In education, we hear the term, IT TAKES A VILLAGE, but what if that village if full of toxins? Bad behaviors? Conflict? Then what? Now what?


How is it that we build relationships with others, and in an instant, that relationship can turn toxic? The foundation to any relationship is trust. When we first encounter new people, we tend to trust them more so than not. We tend to build walls when that trust dwindles over time. We also tend to put ourselves around others like us, creating clique-ish relationships.

Scenario: Yesterday, I had the best relationship with my boss. My boss spotlighted my achievements and work ethic in a sit down shoot-the-shit, informal gathering. Today, my boss gave me a write-up for being insubordinate that led to the questioning of my place in the company; whether I was a good fit for the role.

My mind is boggled, though! How do employees recover from scenarios like this in order to maintain high levels of production to meet, and exceed, goals? Who is the change?


The book titled, Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, delve into three practices that underscored social influence:

The power of an individual, willing to voice his or her opinions for the betterment of the people: The authors detailed a CEO’s endeavor to digest why his subordinates viewed him as unapproachable. When the CEO asked the auditorium of employees to respond, it was silent. People do not tend to share their honest thoughts because of retaliation. However, one guy, who “Countered to the norm” (p. 152) had major influence when he asked to meet with the CEO one-on-one. Instead of personally feeling attacked and becoming defensive, the CEO thanked the one person who had the courage to voice his perceptions honestly. “The CEO showed his genuine support fo the behavior of being candid by not becoming defensive and by rewarding the person who had taken the risk to be honest-even when it hurt-and he then made personal changes to demonstrate his commitment” (p. 153). This resulted in more candid, honest dialogue amongst the team where employees opened up more to solve problems together successfully.

Partnerships with opinionated, respected, and connected leaders who make up approximately 13.5% of the population: Grenny et al. underscored how Mao Zedong used social influence through “opinion leaders” (p. 167) to create change and followers amongst their Chinese village. With the health epidemic of poor conditions in rural China back in mid-twentieth century, Zedong chose to target local educated villagers over health professionals who had a passion for serving their people. These villages who were referred by their peers with basic forms of education, exhibited several months of training to cover the basic necessities to influence and improve the health crisis within the villages. These opinion leaders were taught to treat common illnesses and ailments, recommending hospital treatments for worse health problems. Villagers’ health quickly improved as they embraced new hygienic practices. Zedong didn’t implement a traditional blanket policy because of its popularity; instead, he grew “support from the top with the actions of the on-the-ground opinion leaders” (p. 169).

Involving all to change social norms; Breaking the silence and being accountable: Change comes with breaking barriers that protect the status quo. Traditions don’t change by staying silent. Traditions change when they are brought to the forefront of conversation and debate. Having open discussion about old and new norms is essential to change. Be “200 percent accountable” (p. 181) where all is responsible for empowering fundamental behaviors that promote positive change; communicating clear expectations. “Old norms begin to fall when influencers bring the hidden cost fo bad habits into the bright light of public discourse” (p. 182).

Grenny, J., Patterson, K., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2013). Influencer: The new science of leading change. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

For the record, I hate the word, NORMS. However, when change is needed, norms need to be exposed, discussed, and transformed. Work toxicity grows with comfortability, complacency, and silence. Change grows with influencers, starting with you!

3 thoughts on “Work Toxicity: Being the Change

  1. May I simply say what a relief to discover someone who genuinely knows what they’re discussing over the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people ought to read this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren’t more popular since you certainly possess the gift.

    Liked by 1 person

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