MAKING YOUR ORGANIZATION A PSYCHOLOGICALLY SAFE HAVEN
“I sent an urgent message at 4:00am to my Business Developer but he didn’t respond to me until 8:00am. He is so incompetent!”
Have you ever felt so frustrated with employees who seem not to be as driven as you are? You’ve built this company with your sweat and blood and now your employees seem to be lackadaisical about work and when you try to push them, they call you a slave master? Have you woken up one morning to discover tweets that show that your employees see you as a toxic boss? Don’t fret. We will take a look at what’s going on in a bit and discuss how to correct it.
No employer starts out wanting to create a toxic work environment especially because many managers are now aware that the emotional state of their employees determines how well these employees will commit to the organization and this can have a direct output on productivity. However, when certain emotional cues are not taken into consideration, the possibility of creating a toxic workplace environment can soar, albeit unintentionally. It is why we offer our signature product, Workplace Emotions™ to reduce this possibility. I have personally worked in a toxic work environment where the boss was a machiavellian narcissist. It was no surprise though, that the organization became so toxic that employees left en masse until the company eventually collapsed. I have, however, also observed, by virtue of the work I do, that some bosses are well-meaning and genuinely love their employees but they do not accurately interpret the emotional cues that could have helped them identify employee dissatisfaction and nip emotional toxicity in the bud.
There are three major questions that you must always have answers to [at the back of your mind] as an employer of labour to ensure that you do not breed toxicity in your organisation. They are very simple nuggets but they can be the difference between gaining loyal members of staff or disengaged employees who have no loyalty to your cause.
1. How Well Do Your Employees Understand Your Organization’s Vision and Values?
It seems like the ABC of recruitment, yeah? But it has a profound effect when put into use. Was there any point in your life where you were given tasks that you genuinely were not interested in or that you didn’t understand what was expected of you but were compelled to execute nonetheless? Did you enjoy that task? Were you able to give it your best? Whenever you were asked for updates, did you look forward to discussing them? I bet your answer is a big fat NO! It’s the same principle here. The reason you’re this driven and consumed with work is because it’s your baby. You understand the vision better than anyone else. You are the founder or manager. You breathe the vision. You see it. You run with it. When you’re working, you’re on an emotional high because you’re doing what you love and are passionate about but most importantly, the end goal is at the forefront of your mind so when things don’t go as planned, rather than feel discouraged, you try to navigate new possibilities. You are able to do all of these because the vision consumes you. Have you deliberately taken out time to transmit that same passion and understanding of the vision to your employees? Or do you just assume that they’ll catch it because they work for you and have deliverables? Or worse still, you assume that they understand it because you have the vison boldly placed at every corner of your organization.
2. How Solid is Your Recruitment Process?
I recall many years ago when I had just finished my Secondary School education and was bored at home. I applied to be a Primary School teacher and I got in. I will admit that the primary reason for applying was because I wanted to have my own money as a teenager rather than depending on my parents. I did not at any time think about the value I could bring to the organization. When I eventually, got in, my drive ascended fro a place of selfishness to selflessness and it became to give my best to those children. The only reason I was able to successfully switch my motive was because of my personal values and identity otherwise, I’d have jettisoned impact for my paycheck. With the rising “get rich quick” schemes flying all over town, the need to ensure that you’re not hiring people who are solely in it for the paycheck must be taken into consideration. You have to weed out those who are genuinely a part of your company for the value they can add as well as the value they can receive in return from those who are parasitic and ooze negative energy. If you hire a person whose priority is to earn a salary rather than run with your vision, it doesn’t matter how much time you spend training them to become excellent, it will be a waste of company resources. Their values do not align with yours. If you expect too much from them, you could be seen as a toxic boss. So, identify these people in your recruitment process and find out if they are rigidly there for the money or if they possess the flexibility to see the greater good.
Also, you have to identify certain soft skills during the recruitment process like empathy, curiosity, humility, and a desire to learn among others. The goal should not be to look out for the intellectually competent ones. Knowledge can be imbibed if one is taught but certain skills cannot be taught. They are learnt right from home and displayed in the workplace. As an organization, if you set your eyes only on intellect, you could hire narcissists as employees and this will destroy team bonding and other work-related competencies that drive productivity. Have Workplace Emotions Consultants sit in with you during recruitment processes to help eliminate the chances of hiring toxic workers. All it takes is one toxic worker to cause devastation in an organization.
3. How Well Do You Know Your Employees?
If you want extra commitment, you will have to first model it. An employee may want to know why he/she should put in extra time meant for the family at work. It doesn’t mean that these employees are bad people. On the contrary, they are developing a solid work-life balance and will do anything to maintain that equilibrium. If they must alter that equilibrium for you, it is because they feel like they have a stake in the organization. You have to know who these people are and come to an understanding with them to ensure that in the case of eventualities, they can sacrifice some of their personal time to help out. But if you make this a daily occurrence, you can be perceived as a toxic boss. Building good relationships with your employees, for example, remembering to say a birthday wish on their birthdays, saying hello before going to your office, genuinely developing interest in their feedback, creating an open channel of communication, etc, will help the employee become more emotionally invested in the organization. If you misuse the opportunity or take advantage of this emotional investment as narcissists do, then you’re one step away from losing them.
I also encourage all organizations to have something we call a “Family Meeting”. This meeting should be held at designated periods of time and it should be known to everyone [some organizations I’ve worked with prefer to use the last Friday of every month to do this]. Its sole purpose is to foster bonding among employees and their employers. In this meeting, all problems are brought to the table whether it’s from the janitor or the senior management, it does not matter whom. Everyone is given a fair hearing and whatever is discussed at the meeting should be resolved. No one is allowed to leave hurt and the tone of communication must be respectful at all times. Adopt this into your organization’s culture and watch how your workplace becomes a psychologically safe haven.