I’ve had the good fortune (or misfortune) to work in a number of unhealthy work environments over my career. Not unhealthy in the physical sense but unhealthy in the Patrick Lencioni sense (think “The Advantage”). Psychologically unhealthy. These environments also included some of the worst managers and poorest leaders I had the pleasure to experience during my career.
Poor leaders and bad managers create the unhealthy work environments that are unfortunately not uncommon in the workplace. The downside to working in an unhealthy environment is that it makes the daily work experience very unpleasant and prevents people from performing at their highest level. The upside, for me at least, is that I was able to experience the effects of a toxic environment first hand. I now use that experience to show people how to not create an unhealthy environment for their teams.
Something that would be meaningless in a healthy environment but has “power” in an unhealthy one is the closed-door meeting. You’ve probably all done this where someone walks into your office to discuss something and you close the door behind them. In a healthy environment no one would even notice. In an unhealthy environment the rumors speculating about the subject of the meeting would begin almost immediately (multiply the speed and intensity of the rumors by ten if your visitor is from HR).
Obviously there are subjects that require privacy and the closed-door meeting is completely appropriate. However many times it’s not necessary and we do it from habit. In an unhealthy environment the closed door has an impact.
I’ve done this myself numerous times over my career without ever thinking about the effect it was having on others. Again, in a healthy environment it would have no effect at all. In an unhealthy environment the speculation and rumors begin almost immediately. It’s worth pointing out that the speculation is never good and the rumors are never positive. Ironically most of the time I closed the door it was completely unnecessary. The subject matter didn’t require privacy and I was just contributing to the problem.
Unhealthy work environments are not something that get fixed from the bottom up. They are created by senior leadership and can only be fixed from the top down. What we can do as mid-level leaders, project managers and functional managers, is to create a healthy environment within our group or team. Don’t contribute to behaviors that feed an unhealthy work environment. Think before you close your door.
Take a moment and consider the following:
- How Healthy is Your Current Work Environment? – Is it highly politicized or do people generally trust one another?
- How Would Your People Describe You? – Would they say they trust you and that you generally make decisions that are in their best interest and those of the organization?
- Are You Contributing to a Negative Environment? – How do you react when a team member points out something that is not working or disagrees with you during a meeting?
©2017 Joseph T Drammissi