Several years ago when I was a human resource executive for a large company, I was told by a toxic, bully boss to withhold a duly-earned profit-sharing payment to one individual employee. After refusing to follow his orders several times, the executive went around me to have the payment stopped. With a bully boss, refusing to follow his orders, even if unethical or illegal, is career suicide. The result is typically a non-elective jobectomy.
Learn from Toxic Encounters
We have to learn from toxic encounters so we are better prepared the next time. As much as I would like to say you will not encounter a bad boss, unfair treatment, outright evil people, or all three at one time, your future probably has one or more of these issues on the menu, especially when you live to do what is right. During your career, when you encounter workplace toxicity, do not allow it to, as Stanford Professor Robert Sutton says, “touch your soul.” It is better to leave than to allow the situation to negatively impact your physical or mental health.
This has been a rather hard lesson for me to learn. I have experienced some difficult situations throughout my career. Many of them have been typical issues that many business people face. I tried, sometimes reluctantly, to learn from each encounter, and endeavored to be a better person and professional each time. However, the evil, explosive, vindictive bully boss was one that really messed with my mojo and I allowed to “touch my soul.”
Toxic environments grow in dark places. Openly shining the light on unethical, illegal, and toxic behavior raises awareness and makes work a better place.
Eradicating Toxic Bosses & Work Environments
This is one of the many reasons I have joined the movement to help create great workplaces in America. We cannot eradicate all toxic bosses or environments, however, we can raise greater awareness about the positive financial benefits of stopping cruel and uncivilized behavior in the workplace. Toxic environments grow in dark places. Openly shining the light on unethical, illegal, and toxic behavior raises awareness and makes work a better place.
As an independent, outside consultant, I want to provide the best service possible while being totally honest with my clients, even if it means polite disagreement, debate or delivering negative feedback. There is a buffer zone created when working as an outside consultant. That’s why I think the process of providing negative feedback works better; I am an outsider looking in.
Will You Accept the Mission?
If you are an insider performing corporate self-reflection, it may not always go so well. When a human resource professional, directly employed by an organization, provides negative feedback to executive leadership, it can lead to career hardship. In other words, doing your job can have negative consequences.
The road to creating great workplaces is not an easy one. There will be employers who want to walk down that path and others who do not. If you are a human resource professional, you must decide if you are willing to accept the negative consequences from this positive mission.