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Discover Blog Post

Re: How to transform a toxic workplace culture

We receive amazing questions from champions of the WHY movement from all around the world. Instead of keeping these conversations confined, we want to share them in service of others with similar questions or experiences.

This one comes from a champion in Australia seeking guidance in how to best serve a client displaying a toxic workplace culture. We were inspired to share our Igniter & Head of Brand Voice Stephen Shedletzky’s advice to lead from within.

Here's the question:

A health organization approached us and asked if we could support a department director by helping them reshape the culture of their team of 180. We of course said yes, but upon listening to what the department needs, we have learned that the culture is extremely toxic. I'm wondering if you have any experience dealing with toxic workplace cultures, where you have helped the leader turn the workplace around.

We have a strong sense of what we can and can’t do, and our mission is always to support and not fix. What would you recommend that we do in this situation?

Stephen's reply:

For sustainable change to stick it must come from within. We can lead a horse to water though we can’t force it to drink ...

I’m curious to know, in your assessment, what or where is the source of the toxicity? Is it a leader or leaders? Is it due to leaders you are working with? Or, is it coming from a force above or below that you cannot control?

If the toxicity stems from someone who is in your purview, are they willing to take themselves on, to learn and grow? Are they willing to embrace the change they seek and, first, commit to the journey of transforming themselves? When they commit to that change, the culture they lead can then also transform from the inside out.

If the toxicity stems from someone or something beyond your scope, the opportunity is to empower the leaders you are working with to become the leaders they wish they had. Those leaders can focus on the Circles of Safety in their influence so that those in their span of care wake up inspired, feel safe at work and return home feeling fulfilled.

A team is not a group of people who work together. A team is a group of people who trust each other.

You have to evaluate whether you and your team are the best fit to help these leaders take themselves on, or they would be better served to seek help otherwise. If you feel confident that you can help and that your help will be received, GO FOR IT! If you feel like your time, genius and energy is made to create change elsewhere, seek out or wait for that next opportunity.

P.S. If you’re on Facebook, we recently launched a Group, Inspired, Safe and Fulfilled, which we’d love for you to join and contribute by sharing stories and questions like this so that we can learn and grow, together.