Leadership to Reverse Hostile Workplace | #peopleskills

Reverse Hostile Workplace: Purge Toxic Hidden Beliefs

Reverse Hostile Workplace: Image is one fish of different color from the rest & hand stopping it.

Leadership to Reverse Hostile Workplace Image by Tracy Poon via Flickr.

Image by Tracy Poon via Flickr Creative Commons License.

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.

    Image is office cabinet - left side says "harmful" right says "irritant".

    Image by Adele Turner via Flickr Creative Commons License.

  1. “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 believe 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.

  2. “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.

  3. “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.

Related Posts:
3 Responses to Overcome Bias
Develop Emotional Intelligence w/ These 5 Steps

©2015 Kate Nasser, CAS, Inc. Somerville, NJ. I appreciate your sharing the link to this post on your social streams. However, if you want to re-post or republish the content of this post, please email info@katenasser.com for permission and guidelines. Thank you for respecting intellectual capital.

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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~Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™

6 Responses to “Leadership to Reverse Hostile Workplace | #peopleskills”

  1. Khalid says:

    Bravo Kate,

    You are highlighting a very important topic here.

    As usual let me tell you a story of mind which relate very closely to what you are saying.

    In my department there is a feirce competition for the manager seat among myself and two of my oter colleagues. One of those is a lady. There came an opening for a vacancy with a higher grade than both of us and management approached me hinting about this vacancy. I refused to take that advantage knowing that this lady was promised a grade earlier. So I was frank with her and told her about what happened and she first thanked me for this but I was surprised when she said that as a lady, she isn’t that much interested for the manager position! She said that her first priority is raising her kids so she doesn’t want to take on more responsibilities that will affect her priority order. I insist that she has potential and she should NEVER admit this feeling to management or else she will be exempted from their plans. She assured me that this will stay between us.

    Now if women wants to change this problem, they have to stop thinking with this mentality! They should see themselves as equal contenders to men or else this cultural view of inequality with stay for long.

    There is no harm in putting family as priority one. But men and women should help each other in achieving this target. Who put women as the sole responsible for the family? Men should be equally responsible as well.


    • Kate Nasser says:

      Wow Khalid you have come up w/ perhaps the most highly charged issue on this topic. It raises another issue — when will the workplace be structured in ways that parents can more easily balance high work demands with being a good parent.

      On the issue of “women wanting to change the bias problem” — I think that those in power (leaders regardless of gender) must play a larger role. There are men and women who don’t want to move up into leadership. Let’s find those who do and help develop them!

      I am always thrilled to see your examples for they take the posts wider and deeper and expand the conversation here.

      Thank you,

  2. Carl says:

    Great post Kate, #2 ‘The opposite of logical is emotional’ really resonated with me. I have at times been accused of being overly ‘logical’ in my thinking and not ‘in touch with my emotions’. Those who really know me, know that’s far from the truth.

    Best regards,

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Very interesting Carl. There is certainly nothing wrong with being logical. The issue is do we develop all our senses to lead and to interact well with others. I have met many Analytics (in my IT career days) who had/developed emotional intelligence and met others who disdained anything that wasn’t purely in their logic stream.

      In the end, we must continue to learn and grow if we want to interact well with others!

      Many thanks for your personal story. I love it when people illustrate with individual examples.

      Best wishes and warmest thanks,

  3. Jane Perdue says:

    Bravo, Kate! Leaders getting a handle on their biases before they become prejudiced with discrimination — is key to creating workplaces where differences pull people together instead of driving them apart.

    • Kate Nasser says:

      Thank you Jane. So often leaders think of hostile workplace as just the blatant extremes. Yet the beliefs people have create hostile work environments in everyday ways that have a very negative effect on the people and the results.

      I am grateful for your comment and contribution here.

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