It's good to see that more and more attention is being paid to issues regarding toxicity in the workplace. At the same time, people have started to wise up to the problems related to gender differences and the extra divide that comes from that direction. There has been a lot of research on the topic too, and one particular trend has started to materialize lately: it's becoming more and more clear that some men in high positions of authority have a tendency to let that power go to their heads, and they subsequently end up undermining the performance of their entire operations and let their businesses run into red.
Toxicity at the Workplace Can Happen at All Levels
Toxic behavior is not limited to low-ranking employees, rather it is quite on the contrary. Research from the Harvard Business Review, has shown that men, of a CEO position, tend to be more prone to developing and displaying such behavior. There have been instances of overconfidence from higher-ups resulting in the ruin of entire organizations, as shown by the latest research from Company Rescue which tell us that UK SMEs with men on the board are more likely to go bust. So how do we resolve this issue?
It's Not an Easy Problem to Tackle
It's a very complicated problem to address in the first place because it spans across multiple areas of the organization and requires a good approach to all of them. It's important to have good communication with the company's leadership, ensure that there are adequate channels for voicing concerns, and even then, you'll still have to deal with the problem that overconfident people tend to have issues with being confronted in the first place.
Don't be surprised if your feedback falls on deaf ears – it's an expected part of doing this. Be prepared to take some harsh measures as well. If you realize that the company is beyond saving, talk to insolvency practitioners, such as Company Rescue, to ensure that you have a smooth exit. They can give expert advice to guide you through the process.
Identifying Problematic Patterns
It's a good idea for an organization to know how to identify these patterns before they turn detrimental. From doing this, the toxic behavior can be addressed at its root instead of letting it fester. Ensure that employees have some way of reporting issues on this front. For example, if women have a problem tied to gender imbalance. Whenever an issue is identified, make sure to act on it as fast as possible. In this scenario, perhaps hiring more women could help?
All in all, overconfidence in the workplace rarely leads to anything productive. Dealing with it requires a determined approach and you must be prepared to face some resistance along the way. To maximise your company's chance of survival in the long run, ensure to pay attention to these issues and resolve them as soon as possible.
"Who are you meeting for lunch this week?"
Without fail, my former boss would ask me this question in every weekly status we had. And I dreaded the question. Because my answer was generally a stammering "Umm… No One." Occasionally I could remember what I actually had for lunch. And almost always it was sitting in my windowless cube eating a soggy sad sandwich.
I didn't understand why "who I had lunch with this week" was worthy of being a topic on our weekly status. After all, I was only 6 months into this new job. I was still figuring out how to pull data from Nielsen. I was still figuring out how to write an innovation brief. I was still trying to figure out where the bathrooms were in this maze of a building.
And despite knowing this question would come up in every weekly status, I was reluctant to change my behavior. I didn't see the value in the question. I didn't see the importance of it in my career. I didn't understand why I had to have lunch with anyone.
Because I hated the idea of having to network, to meet people, to put myself out there. Because networking was something slimy and strange and weird and scary. It made my stomach hurt, my throat go dry. And I could feel a faint headache coming on.
Even Oxford's definition of networking only reaffirmed my fears of what networking looked like: the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.
Because please don't ask me to walk into a room where I don't know anyone. And stand in the corner sipping a bad glass of Chardonnay. Please don't ask me to slide my business card out and not so subtly shove it in your face. And ask you to do something for me. Please don't ask me to network. Because I hate networking.
And I used to hate networking (okay, maybe hate is too strong.) I still really dislike the term. "Networking" seemed about getting something from someone. Or someone getting something from you. A favor, a job, a referral. "Networking" seemed very transactional. And someone shoving a business card at you (which happened to me recently at event) only solidified by feelings.
And over the years, I came to really understand that networking wasn't about "the action or process of interacting with others." It was about building authentic connections. It was about meeting people who were different than you. It was about expanding my community. And creating new communities. It was tapping into more and more communities I could belong to.
And as I slowly started to change my view on networking- I mean building authentic connections- I started to realize my communities were more inclusive than I thought. My best friends from middle school. Former bosses. College Alumni I met after we had graduated. Colleagues from past companies. Vendors and agency partners I had once worked with. Colleagues I had once managed. As my family expanded, my husband, my two sister-in laws and my brother in-law. A whole host of fabulous cousin-in-laws. My baby brother as his career skyrocketed. And fellow parents in my kids' school.
I still hate networking. And I love building connections. And helping to build connections and be a bridge for other people.
Now, when I go to a large event, I try to go with a friend. We have a drink at the bar and then part ways to try and make new friends. If we don't authentically connect with other people, and we have made the effort, we always have each other to back to.
Now, I try to meet one new person a week at my company or in my broader community, or reconnect with someone I miss seeing. (This doesn't always have to be in person, can be text, Zoom or Facetime.) And if you can't commit to doing that, that you should seriously relook at your schedule. I thank my former boss for that constant reminder.
Now, I joined Luminary, a women's collaboration hub in NYC, which has been life changing for me. I am also on the advisory board. It's all about women supporting and lifting each other up- to get more money, get that next big promotion, or start their own venture. It's a built-in community of unwavering support.
Now, I am working on expanding my community of moms. Not too long ago, I worked up the nerve to ask a fellow mom in my daughter's class if she wanted to get together. She thought I meant a playdate. I meant drinks. And after one late night out drinking, I have bonded with a whole new set of badass women.
And all of these communities. I am there for my communities. And they are all there for me. Referral for a job at my company. Coaching on how to survive a bad boss. Advice on how to ask for more money. Supporting each other as we care for aging parents. Candid feedback on why they didn't get that promotion. Commiserating over a cocktail on which working parent had the worst week ever.
So please don't ask me to network. Because I hate it. And well actually I don't have a business card to give you. I haven't printed one in four years.