Reverse Hostile Workplace: Purge Toxic Hidden Beliefs
The LA Times recently featured how women are leaving the tech industry in droves because of male leader bias and hostile workplace. As leaders are challenged to address this, they ask: What beliefs and behaviors are behind it? In addition to the obvious signs, what creates this hostile workplace and how can leaders reverse it?
Leadership to Reverse Hostile Workplace: Beliefs & Behaviors
Unearth the strongly held beliefs that create a hostile workplace.
- “Differences are either right or wrong.”
Differences are neither. Yet because differences can be irritating, people label them as harmful.
In your organization, do leaders and managers label differences as harmful? Do they belief differences slow down work and reduce productivity? It’s not far from that belief to behaviors like giving plum assignments and promotions to people who are in the majority or similar to the leaders and managers. In the LA Times article, the manager claimed he had a feeling that the person he selected (a man) could work faster than the woman.
- “The opposite of logical is emotional.”
Not true. The opposite of logical is illogical — errant thinking that produces false results. Yet leaders and managers who are uncomfortable with emotion label it as illogical. This belief comes out in statements like “Don’t be emotional.” They sideline or overlook those who show emotion and promote those who are like them.
As this thinking spreads from these emotionally unintelligent leaders and managers to team members, it creates a workplace hostile to diversity. How ironic! Their focus on logic is the illogic that fosters a hostile workplace. Emotional self-awareness and emotional intelligence are key in reversing these hostile effects.
- “Those who are different must prove their worth.”
This is a dangerous business belief on many levels. It shows the mistaken belief that the business is successful because of the majority — in other words the status quo. Yet businesses who thrive adapt well to change. Status quo and fear of someone different doesn’t lead businesses to huge success. The hostile workplace this errant belief creates, drives the exodus of talent that you need for success. Generational differences, gender differences, personality differences, racial differences, etc… are the rich mix of success.
These mistaken beliefs and fear of differences blind leaders to the hostile workplace they create. As long as there are no obvious signs like abusive language, racial slurs, sexual innuendo, etc…, the leaders don’t see a hostile workplace.
Reverse this blindness by looking at the beliefs not just behaviors or absence of them. To use a technical analogy from my career in information technology — garbage in, garbage out. Bad data going in creates bad results. Errant beliefs in an organization create a hostile workplace and a talent drain.
Hostile Workplace: Leadership Steps to Reverse It
- Explore current beliefs. Don’t recycle the old ones. They may not be worth saving.
- Unearth assumptions about people. Discuss the assumptions and replace them with enlightened truth.
- Spot differences that irritate. Don’t sideline them or label them as harmful. Work through them remembering that irritation produces pearls!
- Check your comfort zone. The more comfortable you as leaders and managers are in your circle, the greater the chance different team members experience a hostile workplace out there.
- Develop your emotional intelligence. Insecurity and lack of empathy foster a hostile workplace.
- Be aware of the culture club you’ve created. Change consultant Alli Polin advises, “Leaders, when you plan a team event for everyone, ask yourselves it appropriate for everyone? Or does it reflect a closed club (e.g. a boy’s club with drinks at a local bar). She makes a great point. When leaders approach me for team building, I always get input from the teams to help leaders avoid this culture club skew.
- Develop diverse people and their talent. Using the majority and status quo as the standard of excellence is not excellent leadership. It is the garbage in/garbage out effect of false beliefs produce bad results.
Take a lesson from Monique Leroux, CEO of DesJardin Group in Canada who says that you must set a target for building more diversity in leadership. To have the talent at hand, you must plan and develop it.
Your View: Are companies reversing the hostile workplace? Are they more inclusive and open to diversity?
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™
Grateful for cabinet image by Adele Turner via Flickr Creative Commons License.
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Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on leading change, employee engagement, teamwork, and delivering the ultimate customer service. She turns interaction obstacles into interpersonal success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.
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