Abusive Environments are Toxic to Innovation, Growth, and Performance

Have you worked in a culture dominated by authoritative, controlling, fear-based managers and leaders? What happens to the people in such a culture–male and female? My research shows that such behaviors are toxic to an organization and to its people much like a virus is to a computer or network. Everything and everyone becomes sick!

Actions and behaviors that oppress people is abusive in nature. It can be compared to any other kind of abuse whether verbal or physical and it impacts everyone.

To control a human being imprisons the human spirit. Such an environment leads to anger, frustration, fear, retaliation, unhealthy competition (an “us against them” or “me against them” culture), and erosion of trust and loyalty. It also results in workplace silos where people do not work together cross-functionally or even within teams. It’s an “every man for himself” culture instead of a team-oriented culture in which everyone is “interdependent on each other for success.”

Obviously, the cost of doing business is high because people are not collaborating, there’s increased workplace strife and grievances, and customer service is usually compromised. Poor performance most often results. There’s no innovation or creativity as people are not allowed to “think”; they have no voices. You can never maximize people’s potential as talent is trapped within “self” never to be discovered or developed.

But what happens to the people long-term. People who have worked in an abusive environment or for an “abusive” manager who has yelled at them, micro-managed them, controlled them, and literally has managed using fear tactics, suffer psychological trauma much like they would from any other abuse. It’s verbal abuse which most often is more debilitating than physical abuse.

Ultimately, people suffer from low self-esteem, depression, at times aggressive behavior towards others in the workplace, and other team-destructive behavior. Instead of the workplace being a place “I want to be,” it is a battle field. People suffer from battle fatigue and battle trauma.

Furthermore, even if the culture is changed to a people-oriented culture with supporting accountabilities, and the perps are still in place, people do not trust them. Everyone is in hypersensitive and hyper vigilant mode waiting for the next attack. Long-term, people can suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) which can result from any kind of trauma. It’s like living with an abusive spouse who apologizes after attacks. The abused partner is always walking on egg shells waiting for the next explosion.

When organizational success depends on leaders’ ability to “inspire” people to the highest level of engagement, develop an empowered culture, and attract and retain the “best of the best,” leadership quality has never been more important and will become even more so over the next decade.

And with Boomers exiting the workplace at some 10,000 per day, it is critical to create a culture in which young people thrive. Young people will not work in a strife-filled environment and for authoritative leaders/managers like their colleagues the Veterans and Boomers tolerated.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said it best, “Do not tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost of teamwork is too high.”

© All rights reserved. Patricia Hatley Inc


About Patricia Hatley

Patricia Hatley is a leadership author, researcher, speaker, trainer, consultant. We provide resources to empower people to empower others. “Inspired leadership elevates everything!” With a graduate degree in strategic leadership, primarily transformational leadership, Patricia Hatley is a leadership researcher with a concentration on 21st century intergenerational leadership, author, consultant, and teacher. Patricia is an intergenerational pro with over 30 years experience leading teams in corporate and non-profit environments. In December 2012, she retired from a 42 year career in the corporate environment to concentrate on this project. Her books include: (1) “4 Generations @ Work: Leading from Conflict to Collaboration,” (2011) based on research conducted within a Fortune 500 company and across all industries, is a study of generational preferences and values and how to effectively integrate all into any organization. (2) “Three Things All People Want,” (2014) which reveals how to inspire people to engagement by tapping into three basic human needs; and (3) “Digital Grenades: Explosive and Corrosive,” (2015) which deals with inspiring people to engagement and high performance when most interaction is across a digital platform via some kind of digital communications, i.e. email, social media, texting, etc . (4) “4 Generations @ Work: A Case for Empowerment,” (2015) a revised and expanded version of her first book 4 Generations @ Work. Patricia’s fourth book is a self-help book for anyone to use to develop a highly engaging workplace, for anyone. It provides information, based on recent and life-long experience:  How to develop an empowered culture, and why such a culture is critical to success today and even more so over the next decade;  “The Trust Factor” importance and basics;  “The Power of Ask,” what it is, how it works, and how crucial it is to success;  “Listening to Understand” basics;  “Integrity today” what it looks like and why it is different and crucial to success;  “Diversity and Inclusion,” what it looks like today, why, importance, and how tos;  Five generations: Intergenerational values and preferences, creating understanding, reducing conflict, engagement, etc.;  The Plurals--She introduces the next generation to flood the work force, the Plurals. Plurals are different than any generation yet, but require many of the same things in the workplace that their colleagues, the Gen Ys, do.
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