By all reports, the workplace is at its most toxic level. Bullying, disrespect and hostility are rampant.
The protracted economic meltdown has only served to make matters worse. The result is an unhealthy environment that is costing both employers and employees.
Workers are not as efficient or effective. They accomplish less in the same amount of time. They waste more raw materials. They make more mistakes.
They miss more days at work. There are more sick calls and more grievances. Burnout experienced by employees includes nearly half of the workforce, according to employers.
All of these factors combine to cost the employer more. It is an unhealthy situation for all concerned.
Many employers make the situation worse with threats both implied and overt. Many managers have taken the attitude that you can quit because I can replace you before you make it out the door.
Such practices are extremely expensive and not productive. Most jobs require more than a warm body. Unfortunately, the situation does not end with the close of work.
The toxic atmosphere travels home with workers and infects even more people and spreads to other workplaces. It invades social and community life. It goes viral on the Internet and goes to school.
It goes to houses of worship and to the playground. It flourishes at sporting events and on the highways. No place is exempt from the verbal onslaught.
The situation can and must be modified and reversed. We can’t wait for the economy to recover to take action. The recovery is slow and uneven. The need for change is urgent. The truth is that this is a do-it-yourself project.
Resolve to make the situation better. It starts with you. You do not need to wait for someone in authority to do it.
Opt out of the blame game. Take responsibility to become an army of one to change things.
Find ways to boost your employees, co-workers or supervisors. Yes, supervisors need encouragement and you might be astounded at the difference it could make.
Say something nice, uplifting or encouraging to those around you. It may be hard at first, but you will find something that is right. It is important that your comment is both honest and sincere.
If saying something nice is asking too much, then resolve not to add to the toxicity. Do not say anything mean or demoralizing. Write a note and put it where you can see it easily to remind yourself.
Make your work area a safe zone. Encourage and enlist others to join you. You are more powerful than you know. You have more influence than you might think. Take charge of the environments where you work and live.
It is essential that you commit your resolve to writing; otherwise, it becomes simply wishful thinking.
For the best chance of success enlist a friend that you trust. Empower that person to give you a signal when you slip into negative mode. The buddy system works well in so many situations because two are stronger than one.
Envision a different workplace. Envision a negative free workplace. If we can create a smoke-free environment, we can create a verbally safe workplace.
Just as those who do not smoke can be damaged by a smoke-filled environment, innocent bystanders can be damaged by a verbally hostile environment.
Hostility, sarcasm and rudeness poison the atmosphere and make it toxic for everyone. It is corrosive.
Sign a pledge to foster and create a less toxic workplace: “For the next 30 days I will say something nice, uplifting or encouraging to at least one person every day. The comment will be honest and sincere. I understand that comments that involve physical appearance are off limits. I will keep a record for each day and note whether I kept the pledge and of any specific reactions directly related to the exercise.”
As mentioned earlier, if this is too great a hurdle at first, then sign on for the noncontributing campaign: “I pledge that during the next 30 days I will refrain from saying anything ugly, demeaning or derogatory to anyone in my workplace. If I need to offer correction, I will do it in a respectful manner. I will keep a record for each day and note whether I kept the pledge and any reactions directly related to the exercise.”
Hostile work environments have a long history. The first incident is recorded in Genesis 3:12. “The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree and I ate.'”
MitchCarnell is a consultant specializing in interpersonal and organizational communication. He is the author of the forthcoming “Say Something Nice; Be a Lifter at Work.” He and wife, Carol, are active members of First Baptist Church of Charleston, S.C. He blogs at ChristianCivility.
A member of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina, he is the author of “Our Father: Discovering Family.” His writings can also be found at MitchCarnell.com.