Toxic workplaces, like porn, are demeaning, corrosive, exploiting, damage everyone involved and can be identified in the same way.

I couldn’t define a toxic workplace well before I worked in one.  I would have envisioned screaming matches, but I really could not have visualized the day to day drama that always plays out.

US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart described how he spotted obscenity and pornography in the famous 1964 case Jacobellis v. Ohio.   Potter said, “I know it [pornography] when I see it . . .” (see, there’s the porn reference).

Toxic signs can usually be grouped into 3 dysfunctional Cs.

  1. Communication is terrible and distorted.
  2. Confrontation is plentiful.
  3. Corrupted ethics, values, and policies is rampant.

Toxic workplaces are created when decision-makers either behave badly themselves or look the other way at bad behavior. Employees are responsible for their behavior, but management also has a responsibility to step in. Management has responsibility for workplace culture and responsible for dealing with bad behavior.

Organizations can turn things around by dealing with problems and the problem employees.  If you ignore the problems, they will spread like aggressive cancers.

Pete Havel is a speaker, trainer, and consultant on workplace culture and leadership.  He’s also the author of “The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees, and Cultures,” named as a #1 Hot New Release by Amazon. It’s available at www.arsonistintheoffice.com

Pete can be reached at pete@petehavel.com and 214-244-7906.

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