Do you sometimes look around you at work and think you are in the middle of a role play game with quite a few characters that play the same roles again and again? I do and not being a very patient person, it does take a lot of effort for me to keep my mouth shut and continue to stay in MY character and play the game. For that is what the corporate world is – a game. And even if you don’t want to play the game, you need to know the game and know the characters very well to achieve what you have set out to do. In my case, it is operational excellence. Your objective could be something else but you would agree with me that it would make our workplace much more pleasant and energetic and reaching business goals that much easier if some toxic employee attitudes were left out at the door. So much of organizational success depends on the culture that is prevalent in the organization. I have written about the part that leaders should play or not play in the past and today’s post is for the rest of us. To be really effective at work, we have to know and understand the people we work with. Each one of us at work has a responsibility to ourselves and to others to not indulge in toxic attitudes and behaviors at the work place. Life would become so much simpler (albeit less dramatic) then.
Here are the five most common toxic employee attitudes that I have seen block personal and professional growth at the work place – let me know if I have missed any:
Attitude #1: It’s not my job or Take No Initiative –
Such people specialize in advice. They can spend hours discussing how Mr. /Ms. So-and-So (especially those in management) are not doing their jobs and if they are, how they should actually be doing this much better. They are experts in their knowledge of who could or what could be better – and the more they know and discuss, the better they feel. And no, they don’t spend time debating on how they could contribute or help. Wouldn’t it be great if they actually used this knowledge to take initiative themselves to actually go and volunteer to DO some of these things, that they know so much about, themselves ?
Attitude #2: I know who is pulling the strings and why or the Conspiracy Theory –
The intelligence agents who think that there is a sinister agenda behind every move in the organization – they thrive on drama and love sharing their inside intelligence with people on their latest theories on how management is out to get them. This one is actually fallout of less than transparent communication from the leadership teams which provides fodder to some people to create stories and scare the living daylights out of people around them. Fear and confusion are not conducive to performance and productivity. Wouldn’t it be great if these people took this particular brand of creativity outside the workplace and wrote thriller novels that I am sure we would all love to read?
Attitude #3: What is the point or We can make No Difference –
Most commonly seen in people who are unhappy with their jobs for whatever reason, this attitude is a complete dampener for people around them who love their work and are passionate about what they do. They do not believe in positive outcomes and spend time curbing the enthusiasm of those that do. If you are unhappy and still choose to stay on, it is your choice. Now that you have made that choice, do you want to spend your time in doing mediocre work for work’s sake or try to inject a dose of excellence in whatever you do and become happier by the day? And let others do their best work in peace?
Attitude #4: I cannot/will not move forward and I will do my best to pull you back too or the Frog in the Well –
I don’t understand the reasons behind this attitude myself – on why someone would want the opposite of a win-win situation. But I see this very often, common symptoms are – share no credit, slander and back-stab at the first opportunity; sabotage any work that one does not directly own, etc. Why? Why? Why? Why would you want to pull down people when you can help push them up and maybe rise yourself too? Beats me but please stop doing this – you are sabotaging yourself in the long run.
Attitude #5: Who me? I didn’t say/do anything or the Passive Aggressive behavior –
This is a very difficult attitude to identify or nail down as such people hide behind the smoke (And I am not being dramatic). Look for these people in meetings and conferences – no response to requests for question or feedback but the moment the meeting is over, you can find them with an audience around them near water coolers, coffee tables or whatever the organization version of that is. This is wrong, that is a bad plan, I know this will not work, we are doomed – you get the drift. Such people don’t speak up when they are given the opportunity to but are very vocal behind the scenes. And even more dangerous, sometimes very quietly block, hinder or just delay their part in the work flow. If you don’t like something or you don’t support a decision – can you please speak up? Chances are that your feedback could be very critical and help influence the decisions or change things the way you want.
We could do so much more if we learnt to respect ourselves and others at work. Not see each other as adversaries but as fellow travelers – united to work for a common goal. As Howard Schultz, Founder & CEO of Starbucks says – Victory is much more meaningful when it comes not just from one person, but from the joint achievement of man. The euphoria is lasting when all participants lead with their hearts, winning not just for themselves but for one another.
Do you think I am being very harsh or did you find yourself nodding your head along the post identifying the characters that you encounter in your organization? What do you think each of us can do make the corporate culture less toxic and stifling? What behaviours do you think impede you in your journey to excellence at work? I would love to hear and learn from you.
Pic Courtesy : http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypic/3360561033/