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Are you leading your company to success or failure? What kind of leader are you?

10_worst_leadersOur radio series theme for October is workplace incivility and toxic work environments. I begin brainstorming for each week’s blog post with a question surrounding the theme, so I asked myself, why do toxic work environments occur? My immediate response to the question was: poor leadership.

Leading others is not a simple task, but if done well, leaders can help companies and employees thrive. However, poor leadership can lead to hostility, poor performance, poor job satisfaction, high turnover rates, and failing businesses. According to Wall Street Journal article adapted from “The Wall Street Journal Guide to Management” by Alan Murray, “Leadership is less about your needs, and more about the needs of the people and the organization you are leading.” The article outlines the six leadership styles that David Goleman author of the book “The Primal Leadership” describes. The six leadership styles are visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding. The article stresses that great leaders encompass all six leadership styles and chooses which style to use based on the situation and people with whom they are working. The ability to execute each leadership style depending on the needs of the situation reminds me how an experienced conflict intervener knows which conflict style to use to achieve the best results.

I previously worked in a toxic work environment where upper-management used the pacesetting and commanding leadership styles. The WSJ article explains pacesetting style as, “the leader sets high standards for performance.” The pace of which the leaders set is high achieving and fast pace. The company I worked for gave very large workloads to their employees with the expectation that they would get as much as humanly possible. Upper management was able to see how much work you completed at the end of each day and if you were not completing enough of your work quickly, your immediate supervisor spoke with you. The commanding leadership style, the WSJ article describes as, “probably the most often used, but the least often effective. Because it rarely involves praise and frequently employs criticism, it undercuts morale and job satisfaction.” The company I worked for rarely gave praise for the work done, it never seemed like enough to upper management and they always wanted more. The environment was toxic when I began working there, and it continued until I left. Employees hated coming to the office, were increasingly stressed, and the turnover rate was high. Upper management used fear and increased workloads to motivate its employees, a style of leadership that was popular in our parents and grandparent’s day.

Leaders have a tough role, they must engage their employees to do their work well, but also be tough when a situation requires it. I think the leaders of my former organization cared most about money, power, and ego. They worried about their needs before the needs of their employees or the organization they were running, which cultivated a toxic work environment. Leadership puts one in a very powerful position, and if one is not careful, the power trip can go to their head.

My husband works for a large tech company, whose leaders use more of the other four styles: visionary, coaching, affiliative, and democratic. I asked him if he thought he worked in a toxic work environment? Without hesitation, he said “no.” I then asked what he liked about his boss’s leadership style? My husband responded:

He allows you space to be innovated and create without being over-bearing. He guides you when needed and challenges you to do your best work. He encourages teamwork and asks everyone’s input on starting and completing tasks and goals.”

Many companies today are changing over to the style my husband’s organization uses, and they are finding success. The leadership role is difficult, but being a good leader will inevitably lead to a company’s success.

What kind of leader are you? Find out by taking the quiz from Inc.com authored by Adam Bluestein former editor of Real Simple’s.

Check out our expert guests that will be on our upcoming October programs here:


Abigail R.C McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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Toxic Work Environment: Addressing Cliques & Catty Behavior

gossip-in-the-workplaceI remember in high school I naïvely thought that once you graduated all the cliques and catty behavior would stop. The Free Dictionary by Farlex defines catty behavior as “Subtly cruel or malicious; spiteful.” I was surprised to find out that work environments are very similar to high school. When I worked in a restaurant, one group of waitresses were all very close friends and had worked together for a long time. They would often exclude all the other waitresses and even talked poorly about them behind their backs. When I worked in the law firm, I observed on my very first day a group of female co-workers sit all huddled together at one lunch table excluding others. I have witnessed the formation of cliques and catty behavior in both working environments with men too! The cooks at the one restaurant where I worked did not like the new waiter; I watched them purposely ignore his questions or walk away when he was talking. Cliques and catty behavior can be detrimental to the work environment, especially if it interferes with day-to-day activities.

I have heard many stories from friends who have experienced these behaviors and felt excluded. My friend Christine told me about her previous job where the head boss had complimented her work more than once in front of a group of female co-workers. She noticed in the lunch room that her co-workers wouldn’t invite her to sit with them. Or they would stop talking the moment she walked in the room or talk about getting together on the weekend in front of her and not invite her to come. Christine said they all began to act passive aggressively towards her, such as taking a long time to complete their part of the group projects, or not suggesting ideas at all to help, and it got to a point where she hated coming into work. I asked why she hadn’t spoken up and said something? Christine said that her immediate supervisor was among the female co-workers acting this way, and she felt like going to her or Human Resource would only make the situation worse. Christine took another job where she was much happier; however, was this best? Perhaps for Christine yes, but the company lost a valuable asset.

Humans naturally form into groups, often with people that are similar to themselves. But it is the catty behavior and the formation of cliques that results in a hostile and toxic work environment. Companies are losing money, woman/manpower, and skills. Depending on the organization one or more of these items lost can be bad for business.

How can cliques and catty behavior be stopped?

The truth is, cliques will never be able to be stopped. People will always associate with like-minded people. However, if you notice you sit with the same people everyday maybe try and switch it up and sit with someone new. Or, if you notice someone else sitting by themselves most days invite them to sit with you. If you hang out with your work friends outside of work and don’t invite everyone, then it is best not to discuss openly these interactions. Exercising empathy can also help, try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. How would you feel if you were being excluded?

Catty Behavior should and needs to be addressed. You could approach those acting catty one-by-one and calmly let them know how (name the specific behavior) is impacting you. And then, simply ask them to stop. If the behavior continues, you could approach your immediate supervisor or human resources. While I understand where Christine was coming from in her situation, not everyone can or wants to leave their job. A situation may not become better immediately, but at least the situation is brought to your supervisor’s attention or Human Resources have the behavior on record.

Toxic work environments can ruin companies and cause employees to be unhappy. The best companies are the ones that promote positivity, quash gossip, and encourage inclusivity.

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management


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