The essential leadership challenge is creating an environment where a team can thrive. In order to be the kind of business that people want to work for, a company has to have a group of people working for the organization that come together to get good work done. Unfortunately, as an external human resources consultant, I often observe how one rotten apple can spoil the whole barrel. One toxic leader can undermine all of the good work occurring to build a department and/or business.
There are few things worse for an employee than walking into work and hitting a wall of negativity that surrounds the workplace. Negative leaders may bring unwanted criticism to an employee’s job and often make employees feel that there is little they or the company can do that is right. Workplaces generally react poorly to negative leaders. A leader who focuses on the negatives of a person, situation or product is not likely to see the potential positives. When a leader dwells on the problems, rather than focusing on a solution, the company’s vision becomes distorted. A workplace becomes stagnated when managed by someone who takes on a negative outlook. If a company strives for a workplace that is upbeat and positive, a negative leader will prevent the company and/or department from accomplishing that goal.
Positive people generally do not want to surround themselves with negativity. Negative leaders may inadvertently distance themselves from their employees. When that happens, communication in the workplace typically breaks down, which can lead to upset employees and less than optimal productivity. One of the primary assets of a leader is his/her ability to work with his/her employees. It is impossible for a negative leader to manage every employee effectively, unless the majority of his/her employees also take a negative outlook. If the workforce becomes negative, even more problems ensue, because employees may begin to worry about their jobs, dislike the company and become cynical about work related issues.
A Solution: The Survey
I consulted with a small company where negativity and bullying were hallmarks of the culture. Senior executives in certain department set the tone by shouting, swearing, name-calling, malicious sarcasm and taking actions that were threatening. High staff turnover, sickness absence, grievances and disciplinary issues occurred frequently. Based on my recommendation, an employee climate survey was conducted which pinpointed where the problems existed. Based on outcomes of the employee engagement survey, the Company’s Board of Directors in conjunction with the CEO took the following actions:
- Implemented a leadership code of conduct
- Required all managers to go through leadership skill training
- Created a skip level review process
- Selected external coaches to work with the most toxic managers
- Held senior executives accountable for the behavior of their leaders
- Incorporated employee engagement as a metric in determining executive bonuses
- Measured culture and leadership changes through an annual employee engagement survey
Even toxic leaders can feel compelled to change and modify their behavior, especially when the Board of Directors expects change. As a result, the toxic culture and leadership in my client’s organization changed for the better over a two-year period.
Today’s workplace demands a different type of leader than “the Toxic Manager”. Positive leadership is necessary to nurture company growth. Using positive behaviors, actions and encouragement has shown to be a much more effective leadership style than shutting employees down or using degrading words. Being a leader is more than just overseeing an organization.
As a leader, it is essential to take charge and manage the show without expecting a standing ovation or any credits, for that matter. Respect is earned, as they say. It is impossible to earn respect when negative tactics are used instead of positivity and encouragement. Moving forward, a company can thrive by creating a happier work environment and a place where those employees can feel enthusiastic about coming to work. Therefore, positive leadership is one of the most fundamental elements of growth to an organization.
If you feel that your company needs a change but you are not sure how or what changes are needed, contact Treyburn HR for a consultation.
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