Bad Communication = Toxic Workplace Culture
If you’ve got “bad” communication going on in your organization, it’s not just going to blow over. In fact, communication is one of the keys to a consistently healthy culture. When you replace it with trademarks like harshness, one-sidedness, or even intimidation, the result is a toxic workplace culture. In that kind of environment, it’s not hard to see the signals.
Read the Room
Let’s step outside ourselves for a little perspective. A canine, for instance, is easy to read. Whenever my dog, Grace, thought I was upset with her, her tail went directly between her legs. She would cower, ears back, with a guilty, shameful look.
As humans, our own signals of distress may not be quite that obvious, but they’re certainly there. In my case, others might see my face begin to blush. What they can’t see is my heart about to jump outside my body because of how hard and loud it is beating. These feelings are not to be ignored; we have to pay attention to them, not only in ourselves, but also in others.
This week I had occasion to witness several interactions where one person in the room was feeling threatened by another person. It wasn’t a fist fight or anything dramatic; in fact, fairly subtle signs surfaced, but it was there. I could tell that the person was feeling less than supported by the conversation. It’s not a great feeling for whoever is on the receiving end.
The individual dishing out the language is feeling better for having voiced their opinion and I’m all in favor of making sure you share all feedback — whether good, bad, or indifferent.
Yet the manner in which it is done is so critical for the outcomes. You shouldn’t sugar coat feedback, nor should you say something positive if it’s not accurate. But you need to be respectful, keeping in mind that the other person has their own perspective, which has validity and should be acknowledged and explored.
When a person feels backed into a corner, it’s hard to come out gracefully. One common reaction is to cower, like Grace tends to do, and just give in. But no one wins because the real issues have not been addressed. Moreover, the message you’re sending is that it’s not a safe/healthy environment, and that is how a toxic workplace culture develops.
Change Your Approach
Long-lasting solutions will only happen when both parties begin to think about the problem creatively, and with curiosity, as opposed to throwing out self-motivated fixes. Do whatever you can to have everyone involved participate in a resolution.
When you’re barking loud enough to put someone in a corner, you definitely won’t get the best out of them. Instead of letting bad communication take over, take a breath, back off, and allow room for discussion.
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