Why do organizations tolerate dysfunctional interactions that destroy trust? And what prevents leaders from confronting toxic behaviors effectively? In this short clip, Elizabeth Holloway, PhD in Psychology, provides a useful introduction to understanding how toxic behaviors persist.
To access the complete presentation, click here
Our Viewpoint on Toxic Behaviors in Organizations
As Dr. Holloway argues toxic behavior relies on a system with different players. Identifying the participants in a toxic situation can help everyone gain clarity about the dynamics at play and decide for themselves what is the right course of action, whether as a leader or as a participant.
In her presentation, Holloway identifies three players in a toxic behavior system as:
- The perpetrator,
- The protector and
- The buffer,
For good measure, I will add the notion of:
In fact, once a pattern of toxic behavior is entrenched, everybody in the organization becomes an avoider to some degree. (As we will see later this often also applies to the leader.)
What holds the situation in place is fear. Most of us have no expertise in confronting toxic behavior. Besides, in many instances the person calling out the toxic behavior gets labelled the trouble maker. So no one thinks they have anything to gain through confrontation.
The Making of a Toxic Culture
This article was first published in TRUST MAGAZINE winter 2016
Most executives give little thought, if any, to how trust in action strengthens the performance of organizations. Trust is just not a priority for them. Why that is so remains a leadership puzzlement, especially when a growing body of evidence indicates that trust is key to success.
In one-on-one conversations leaders often admit that, in fact, they are not sure how to build trust. But such moments of candor are brief and generally followed by rationalizing that trust-building takes too much time anyway.
Whatever rationale is put forward to ignore trust; the fact remains trust is not just nice to have. It’s the center piece that determines how individuals behave and interact — whether team members are open with information or secretive, inclined to help out or hold back, willing to take risks or just looking to play it safe.
What to do?
Alain Bolea is delighted to be included in the 2015 list of Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trust. The list is put forward by Trust Across America | Trust Around the World. Founded by Barbara Kimmel, TIA|TAW is dedicated to bringing the topic of organizational trust to the forefront. It provides information to inspire leaders and tools to increase trust in business practices and institutions.
He is honored to be in the company of Patricia Aburdene, Ken Blanchard, Tim Cook, Stephen M.R. Covey and Bill George to name a few.
The complete list is available in the new issue of Trust Magazine. The magazine also contains my article Foster Trust—Build Team Performance. You can get your free copy of the magazine by clicking on the cover below.
Jack Welch responds to a question on how a leader knows who is being “cut-throat” and who is doing their work. Toxic behaviors need to be handled promptly.
To view the entire presentation click here
Viewpoint on Toxic Behaviors
With toxic behaviors present in a group, there is very little chance that people will fully trust each other, speak openly, and work in a collaborative manner. Cut-throat behaviors such as taking credit for work that others have done, backstabbing, gossiping may happen behind a leader’s back so to speak, but the consequences are always visible in the way people talk and act. Toxic behaviors can be detected in the patterns of avoidance in the team’s interactions.
Simon Sinek discusses how leaders need to value integrity in order to be trusted as leaders and to foster trust in their organizations.
To watch entire presentation click here
When integrity in organizations is low, trust is also low; people do not acknowledge they have made a mistake, do not admit that they don’t know how to do a part of their job, and avoid asking for help for fear people (and especially their boss) will think they are incompetent. Such behaviors always begin and get reinforced with what values leaders embody by their behaviors. If integrity is not acknowledged and rewarded by the leader, it will not be a core value.
Sitting on the board, whether in a corporation, partnership, family business or charitable organization, often becomes a source of constant frustration. Board members will readily confide — off-the-record of course— that trust among board members is too tenuous for anyone to be able to raise the real issues in a productive manner and consequently little gets accomplished. Board members also report they have given hope that things will ever change because no one seems to know how to change the culture of the board itself.
Behind the frustration and discouragement, exists a genuine concern that real dangers loom if critical business matters of strategy, governance, technology, among others, are not addressed. I would go so far as to suggest here that when organizations run into serious difficulties or fail to capitalize on opportunities, one can probably find that the seeds of trouble were sown 3 to 5 years prior in the mediocre functioning of the board.
Unfortunately the likelihood is high that a board without a culture of trust will become somewhat dysfunctional. Without trust, dysfunction is baked in the very nature of what a board is. Boards are different from other groups of people in several critical ways which become problematic when ignored.
Whether it is in sports or in business, it’s commonly accepted that a “star team” will outperform a “team of stars”. How competent people work together to accomplish the tasks at hand accounts for as much, if not more, than the sum of their individual talents. The dilemma in organizations is that many working groups never succeed in tapping this higher level of synergy because they get embroiled in day-to-day work pressures and conflicting priorities.
Working with teams in trouble, we find that the real source of problems is rarely technical in nature even when signs seem to indicate that it is. The source of problems usually reveals itself after just a couple of hours, when project members clamor for better communication; problems invariably stem from people dynamics.