6 Steps to Remove Toxicity from Your Organization

By: MarkWeaver Monday May 18, 2015 comments

I love chocolate.  Really love chocolate.  I can do without other sweets, but there’s just something about chocolate that screams to me.  Layla would eat chocolate if I let her.  All of it.  But I let her have zero because Layla is my yellow lab.  What works for me is toxic to her.

Some organizations can appear toxic to some people.  Some people can appear toxic to some organizations.  What can seem healthy to one person can suck the life out of another.  Think about it…  Wall Street has a dog-eat-dog environment that some might find to be toxic.  And yet there are numerous people clamoring for positions to get right in the middle of it.
In some organizations, team members are expected not to independently do anything outside of defined policy or protocol.  An enterprising individual may find that environment toxic.  In other organizations, team members are expected to take initiative and challenge the status quo.  A compliant individual may find that environment toxic.  Neither may be.  One person’s “fit” may be another person’s toxicity.
If you want to keep your organization free from toxicity, take these 6 steps:

  1. Know the ingredients.  I have a friend with a peanut allergy.  When she eats out, she grills the wait staff about the ingredients.  She has to; something in what appears to be a harmless salad could be toxic to her.  In order to avoid hiring people who could find your culture toxic, you’ve got to know what’s in your culture.  Everything.
  2. Be true to the organizational “you”.  Don’t try to be a generic organization that appeals to everyone.  Know who you are as an organization and then be straight up about it.  Set the expectation in the right place and you will be less likely to disappoint.
  3. Don’t tolerate your intollerables.  Know what is intolerable in your organization.  As a leader, be intentional and timely about addressing behaviors, attitudes, speech, and mindsets that undermine the culture you want.  Everyone who is part of the organization should be empowered to be on guard against tolerance of intollerables. 
  4. Don’t hire wrong.   Don’t hire just for skillset, education, and experience.  Don’t hire someone who just likes what you do.  Don’t hire someone who merely likes how successful you are.  There will always be those who want to join your team, but shouldn’t.  If you miss this, you may hire those who will later find your environment toxic.  And then you’ll read about it on Social Media.
  5. Hire right.  Hire those who fit.  Hire those who like how you do what you do.  Hire those who like your ways, your values, your culture, your sense of mission.  Be picky.  Your environment is not right for everyone – even those who do have the requisite skills.
  6. Deal with the bad fit.  A good producer who doesn’t fit and isn’t aligned with your values can do much more damage than the contribution made by what he produces.  The longer you leave him in place, the more likely he is to find the organization to be toxic to him.  And the longer your other team members may find him to be toxic to them.

There are some organizations that are toxic, where distrust runs rampant.  There are also plenty that are not toxic that get labeled as such by those who didn’t fit.  Sometimes toxicity, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.
At Open Door HR Solutions, we honestly believe that the right team, united around a compelling vision, can change the world.  We help organizations create vision, culture, and an enviable employment brand.  And we help them find and keep the right team members, part ways with the wrong ones, and get everyone on the team focused on the compelling vision.  But we leave the change the world part up to you.
Mark Weaver, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, QES
[email protected]

About the Author: MarkWeaver


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