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S1 E02: 16 Traits of Toxic Workplaces

When we started this episode we wanted to dive deep into the traits that toxic workplaces typically have. It was good to see the traits and align them with our experience!

To run this episode we used the 16 traits of toxic workplaces from FastCompany – we recommend you check it out to learn more!

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Oh yeah.Speaker 2: 53:32

All these different shirts. No, that was the other Brian. That was T-shirt Brian Oh.Speaker 1: 53:37

T-shirt Brian. Oh my God, yeah, brian with the insurgents was very funny.Speaker 2: 53:41

Yeah, um, we had the lady with four million jobs. Do you remember that one Mm? hmm, i know Where she had like what was it Like? 47.Speaker 1: 53:54

Like her first. Like her first line out of the box was like I’ve had 46 jobs in the past 30 years and we’re like what.Speaker 2: 54:05

We’ve got Amy, who talks to us about toxic positivity, which is pretty cool, and then we had Stu, who was our most recent recording, yeah, talking about leadership, which I’m pretty bloody excited about.Speaker 1: 54:20

And now so we’ll be doing some more interviews, but also sprinkling in some of the research episodes.Speaker 2: 54:25

Yeah, and then we’ll be doing some research episodes is going to like is our next kind of step right? That’s our evolution.Speaker 1: 54:33

And we’ll see what happens. We’ll see what you guys like more And if you have any comments, thoughts, reactions, just reach out to us.Speaker 2: 54:39

Yeah, We really appreciate everybody’s comments. Yeah, We’ve had. I just, I just get so excited when someone comments, So if you could comment like like subscribe, share follow all those good things. Come join us on LinkedIn. Come join us on.Speaker 3: 54:55

Instagram, yeah, yeah Find us a good place.Speaker 4: 54:57

We’d be happy to have you.Speaker 2: 54:59

And we’ll see you in season two. Couple weeks, yeah, yeah, a couple weeks. Thank you for joining us today. If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you.Speaker 1: 55:10

Also, leaving a review helps us create more content because it shows us there’s an interest in this topic.Speaker 2: 55:16

For those of our listeners who do better with reading, we have closed caption available on YouTube.Speaker 1: 55:20

See you next week, same time and same place.

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Episode Transcript!

Nicola 1:24
Okay, so I think, you know, one of the things that we’re going to talk about I think today is, you know, what is traditional workplace toxicity. And I know that you went and found kind of 16 signs of a toxic workplace according to company, which actually were really valid, and I really enjoyed reading through them. So I thought it was a really good idea to maybe go through each one of them and kind of highlights how the toxic organisation that we meet in how those lined up with the toxicity that is kind of commonplace in a toxic way, like work environment. So you want to you want to start number one?

Gina 2:06
Sure. So number one is turnover. Which just means you know, there’s an obvious symptom of a toxic workplace environment, when there’s a lot of turnover. So people, the people like to say, like people don’t leave their job, they leave their boss, and toxic bosses create toxic environments that drive people away. So if you’re seeing a lot of turnover, you might, yeah, might have a toxic workplace

Unknown Speaker 2:34
might want to reconsider. Yeah. But I think what what was interesting about this workplace and I know we kind of disagree a little bit on this is because the team was so small, there wasn’t ever a lack of something to do. So there was always something interesting for you to do. So the turnover of the core team was very small, like the turnover wasn’t huge.

Unknown Speaker 2:57
But you and I were part of the leadership team, and we had we had a lot of turnover. And then I also know a lot of content creators were let go, I was told why I didn’t know any of these people also gossiping you know. And I think one of the first things out of the CEOs mouth when she first interviewed me was I don’t think we’ve had anyone quit on any siet we have fired people

Unknown Speaker 3:33
and the CEO would confide in me like about who she had to let go and why and a lot of them were just lower level people like content creators, but it was like, I don’t know these people. I don’t give a shit. Please stop talking to me. So I can fucking work.

Unknown Speaker 3:48
Like that’s so gossipy. Like it is just so negative, like you don’t Yeah, quantified. Like why your firing

Unknown Speaker 3:58
face. She came, she called me like she’s she slack called me and was like, Oh my God, I feel so much lighter. And I was like, okay. Oh, yeah. And then she proceeded to make fun of you. She was like, Oh, she wanted like an investigation, like an FBI investigation. And I was like, Dude, I like ideation is

Unknown Speaker 4:21
like an internal investigation to be a dick.

Unknown Speaker 4:24
When I tell you, I could have cared less. I literally, like if I could have just like, taken my entire laptop and like farted into it in response to that. I can’t part on demand though. Because like, I was just like, why does she think I care? But yeah, I mean, None None of them. None of the things she said to me were appropriate when it came to other, you know, employees and it’s very gossipy. So

Unknown Speaker 4:55
well, we go into number two right there. I think this is a big one for both of us is Romanism. So while it is appropriate sometimes to go with people that you’ve worked with in the past, a culture of cronyism is toxic, hiring from the same pool of friends, former colleagues and alumni network and bypassing high performers to promote to promote friends and former colleagues into higher roles. Showing favouritism, for people that you know, it’s annoying. I write positive cultures, not toxic cultures, positive cultures seek out diverse perspectives fostering equitable practices and openness. This company was

Unknown Speaker 5:42
notorious for lifted again, no, four yes. No soda. Yes. It was so bad. Tell him. It was

Unknown Speaker 5:51
like a cute, okay, so all the staff members other than you and I potentially were from the same school, the same church group family members with little or no experience, and they will often put in these executive positions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great way to learn. Like, all hands on deck, let’s learn a new talent. But when you have no real world experience, it’s really hard for you to grow. And there was always commentary around how work it’s like a family. We’re all friends. Like we’re so close. It’s tight knit. And I was short staffed at one point. And I was told I could use the boss’s partner who joined my team realistically had no experience in the space that we needed the work to be done in had limited time available to do things. So I ended up just having to do double the work because you can’t exactly go back to your boss and say, hey, look, your partner’s not pulling their weight. You know, cuz Can you imagine what the ripple effects of that would be?

Unknown Speaker 6:56
But you know, so for me, it was like, what I didn’t and I didn’t know a lot of this until towards the end of my time there that most of these people were either direct family members, or they were all hired from a Midwestern base church group, which I don’t again, like I really don’t care. Like I’m a New Yorker, we were very liberal. Like, we don’t care what you’re doing, who you’re doing it with, like, if you’re not hurting anyone go on with your bad self. But these are not my people. Like I’m an again, native New Yorker. I don’t sugarcoat things. I don’t, you know, read blessings. First thing in the morning. I work in a corporate involves environment. And I’m used to working with people who have no problem with me sending an email that doesn’t have a fluffy greeting and just disseminates information. So communication was really difficult with for me within my team. And I think the lack of actual qualifying experience for some people like the CEO, and even the CEO, they did not they were not business people, they did not know what they were doing. It was really frustrating for me, because, like, where’s the line between me saying we I know better because I’ve done this before, like for more than 5 million times, or I’ve seen someone else do this. And this is a terrible idea. But not being so engaged that I take the job like personally, it was a very difficult fine line for me. So yeah, that was a tough one for me. Because once I found out that people were all like, from either family members or church group members, a clicked a lot of it really clicked for me because I was like, Oh, I remember I would ask you, I’d be like, Why do these people have the same last names? And you would be like, Oh, because that’s so and so’s like brother in law and I’m like, Oh my God, or that was so and so’s neighbour in Arkansas, and they lived there and they became friends and now they work here and I was like, what? Like this is so fucking bizarre. The next point number three is a structural fear of retribution toxicity in the workplace needs to be fixed from the cultural the company cultural point of view. If you suspect there’s a problem, there probably is can we just say that these are our doctor sees the cultural point. I feel like those are Dr. Seuss. Like, you know, core values that we talked about. Anyway, leaders need to find time to chat with staff and not wait to be told the organisational structure should allow open and honest communication without fear of retribution or tarnished, tarnished reputations. Ask and ask often.

Unknown Speaker 9:53
Oh, okay, I’ve got as you know, I’ve got no problem speaking my mind and I genuinely think neither did you but At times, I was told that when I spoke my mind or shared an opinion, it wasn’t soft enough or positive, positive enough, and we’re going to hit on that toxic positivity later. But you know, sometimes business isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. And I remember one situation quite clearly, the product people wanted, that was something that had to include plastic plants. And I just said, Hey, I thought the business was about sustainability and reducing plastic waste and reduce. Why let’s just say about that. Okay, good. Yeah, no, we don’t eat like that is a whole nother a whole different

Unknown Speaker 10:40
podcast that’s like sustainability and like supply chain, and importing. But yeah, again,

Unknown Speaker 10:46
the cool here is that we’re supposed to have a limited environmental impact. And now you want to include a plastic planet. Like

Unknown Speaker 10:54
nobody actually gave a shit about environmentally friendly, conscious, whatever you call it, nobody in the company cared about it.

Unknown Speaker 11:01
So I was like, Okay, well, what is the purpose? It’s not going to be for cleaning the air of the person’s place, you know? And I said, is it providing anything more than a month plus the plan to look at a visual? Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 11:15
And when

Unknown Speaker 11:16
I questioned it, I was pulled aside in a separate chat. And I was told that I was belittling their ideas and not being open minded. And when I retorted with what we knew to be true about what customers actually wanted, and saying, This isn’t something that they’ve indicated that they want, I was just being harsh and mean. And I was like, Okay, I was also then told, and in that same conversation, that that plant, like that plastic plant, was the CEO, testing that person to see if they could come up with a reasonable product product. Let’s so duplicitous.

Unknown Speaker 11:58
And while there was a culture of duplicity there, I mean, just the way that you were fired, and then the CEO immediately came to me and started like divulging shit, that’s, like, duplicitous right there. But wait, so was, I need to know, was a plastic plant ever made? I don’t know. I don’t think it was. I don’t think it was. Well, we

Unknown Speaker 12:20
don’t know yet. Maybe it comes up this year. Who knows?

Unknown Speaker 12:24
Count me out for buying a fucking plastic plant.

Unknown Speaker 12:27
I’m like, who’s buying a plastic plant? Well, I

Unknown Speaker 12:30
think that was the issue is that there was no form of communication that was done. You know, in a fluid sort of open manner. It was like, I was I was also not afraid to speak my mind or contradict someone because I rested, you know, rest assured in my ability, my experience, and my overall knowledge. And I think it was tough for me because I was reporting to people or contradicting people who never had a real job before this now executive level job that they now have. And I, you know, I worked up from the bottom to the top, like, I went through it. I did not come from family members who got me into the industry. Like, I really am someone who started at the bottom, like Drake said. So apparently, when I would like, be like, why are we doing that? It would come across as condescending, bitchy, rude, I would often make people in my team cry just because I’m saying like, I would say, like, no one, we’re not doing that. We have to table that and do it another time. We don’t have the time. And I was told that I needed to be kinder. And so maybe my emails were, you know, needed to be fluffed, so to speak. And also, like my feeling, again, we already talked about it, like emails and messages in a workplace are simply to disseminate information. That’s my feeling. And I just feel like it ended up creating a culture for me where I was always walking on eggshells. You know, and I think, ultimately, you were to Nikola but you just didn’t realise it. Because you were probably so overworked and under rested, that you were just like, this is normal.

Unknown Speaker 14:20
But also the condescension in you know, I know we come back to communication a little bit later, but the condescension in the communication from the CRO was diabolical. Like, they

Unknown Speaker 14:37
literally go around me. And I was like, if you want to do my job and have my job, why did you hire me? Do it better? If you think you can do it better than me? No way. Go ahead. She can’t because if she could have, why would you have needed me? And when I expressed that to the COO I was told, Well, we never want her to shut down Oh, and I just saw her shutdown with you. And I was like, what? It just like none of it made any sense. I was always confused. And I was always walking on eggshells always. Yeah. Alright.

Unknown Speaker 15:14
God, oh my God, I’ve already touched on that we’ve touched on this a little bit, I think often complained to their peers rather than solving issues for proper channels. Many people have come to believe this kind of awesome, awesome, awesome Office. Office gossip is in a work environment. But it isn’t gossip is what happens when team members are not talking with each other directly about issues or elevating concerns and having them addressed when people don’t feel seen and heard their dissatisfaction leaks up in complaints to their colleagues.

Unknown Speaker 15:47
And I was guilty of this. I was so unhappy that I would start talking shit about the CEO to my direct reports, and that’s not okay.

Unknown Speaker 15:58
Oh, really, that’s a really good opportunity for improvement. You now have seen yourself do that in a bad situation. And now you can look back and reflect and say that’s something I like,

Unknown Speaker 16:09
that’s my red flag. Like when I’m gossiping about people who are technically I report to I need to peace out. Yeah, like I yeah, like because I shouldn’t be in a situation where I feel that comfortable. It’s hard, though, in a place of toxic toxicity. Its boundaries, man, they are so difficult. And especially because I also think that being remote was really did us a disservice. I really did. But I felt like also you and I ended up getting fired because of gossip. Just straight up.

Unknown Speaker 16:46
Yeah, for sure. Um, you don’t like I think the other thing as well was, you know, I can on multiple occasions, there were screenshots sent to me like gossipy screenshots sent to me. Like it’s but like things and then, you know, we would have these all hands on deck meeting, and then my team would get together, you know, for a debrief, essentially. And it would just turn into a venting session, because everybody was so displeased with how the system was working, and not gossiping specifically about people, but kind of bitching about the system and the fundamentals of how the system wasn’t working.

Unknown Speaker 17:27
Yeah. All right. So the next one, I mean, I feel like we could also say, like, let’s break up stories from shit shows of workplaces like because really, it was a shit show. Anyway,

Unknown Speaker 17:43
multiple, but only once I left, and I realised what a shitshow it actually was.

Unknown Speaker 17:49
i Right. And I think that that’s, that’s a great learning experience for you. And for me, my learning experience was a I’m, I’m calling myself on the thing that I wrote on the things that I was I also fell into and, you know, it’s easy to kind of be like, Oh, just saying one or two things might not be the worst, or you’re so frustrated that you speak about something. Yeah, but really, like, as a leader, you can’t do that.

Unknown Speaker 18:17
Nor Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 18:20
And also like, so the next one, number five, then I was about to talk about this without pointing it out. But number five we have here is troubling behaviours or body language. So body language indicates fear. Do people smile laugh engage in formally do people ask questions for clarification? Do they challenge decisions? Any of these and other small behaviours can all be signals of a toxic environment? How can we ferret this out? And this is my favourite part when many people continue to remote work remotely. So that I think was really did the whole company a disservice because we were all remote. And so if you were speaking to me, like on the phone, and I was like, Oh, my God, Nikola, you’re killing me right now. You would get the context, you would be like, You’re joking, I get it. And for me, I, I write messages, and I email exactly how I speak. So there were times where I’d be like, Oh, my God, so and so you’re killing me. And it was used against me when it was when if they had known me or been done via like, you know, a video chat or a call, you know, they would have known I was joking, but it was then used against me. So I think just being remote was a complete disservice for everyone.

Unknown Speaker 19:36
I think, you know, as well, like, you’ve got that troubling kind of behaviours. And, you know, you were cut off from speaking directly with the car

Unknown Speaker 19:47
because they made her shutdown grow a pair.

Unknown Speaker 19:50
But regardless, this in this particular instance, the CEO always had the boss say, even if it went against good business practice OS, which would ultimately impact other areas of the organisation. And that was for me, that was infuriating.

Unknown Speaker 20:09
There was and, and often the CEO would forget conveniently and it was always like, like how she forgot about your recording that she asked for you to do it very convenient. For me a big red flag here was the CEO and the CFO never said, Thank you never acknowledged good work. I was never told Thank you. I was never told, like, Hey, you did a good job with that. You know, everything I did was always question. Did they ever say thank you, to you? Um, yeah, because

Unknown Speaker 20:43
I had some big hitting milestones, right? You’re, like, yours were a slow burn. Whereas mine were always quick, big hitting milestones. So it was easy, easier to get that validation. Because, yeah, we hit this target that we had set,

Unknown Speaker 21:03
right. I mean, that’s true. And I think mine my stuff, it’s like, they were, I think they were scared of me. Honestly, I think there was a level of being scared because I like was gonna come in and like, fuck it up in a good way. And they did it for you. It needed that. But they didn’t fully trust me. And they weren’t willing to fully let go of the reins. So there was that and they were wasting money all over the place. And if I would say like, Hey, I can’t, I can’t in good conscience let you guys air, this ginormous amount of items in that are super heavy, they would pitch a fit. And I’d be like, well, this is why we need to follow a retail calendar or marketing calendar. And and like a, you know, an import calendar. And they didn’t even realise that there was such a thing. Also, I remember asking a budget, like my spend budget for certain projects.

Unknown Speaker 21:58
And I was I deep dive into that budget stuff. So I could give you a ballpark.

Unknown Speaker 22:05
And like the way that they had us do our budgets, it was like tell us how much you spent like last month, and then how much you think you’re gonna spend? I’m like, first of all, why aren’t we using like the most like, like, simplest accounting like QuickBooks, and that way, you just go right in and you see it, you run a report, there’s no guessing. You see what you’re actually spending. I mean, it was just, you know, I mean, I remember I had to tell them the difference between cost of goods sold and cost of goods. They were calling everything cost of goods sold. I so reserved team members pay attention to non expressive team members. Very one very frequent symptom that you can observe when you experience a toxic environment is a prolonged period of silence. Healthy teams express themselves, they argue, they talk, they question, they challenge and they participate. If none of these things are happening, there’s a big alert of a toxic environment. Era for me, I had team members that I wouldn’t even know what they looked like, like direct reports, technically, that never put their, their camera on during meetings during team meetings, barely spoke, I would not know who they were if I walked past them. You know, I had team members who actually got upset when I would pose a question to them, and they would publicly scold me like to my team on Slack. It was yeah, it was really bad. And I think I mentioned it earlier, you know, I had, I always say like, we got to move fast, we got to move fast. And it was only to like, it was only gonna end up helping my team in the future. I was like, yes, it’s gonna suck right now. I completely get it. We just got to all come together. They always push back on it. And that would be fine if I was asking for like the world but for the basics. I mean, especially the art department, you would think they were making like brand new like fabrics, you know, literally they were making like a little tiny logo that was like this big. That never really differentiated that much from the one that was done before.

Unknown Speaker 24:10
Okay, number seven, no trust between colleagues. Be on the lookout for the absence of trust between employees. This can translate into disrespect between team members. Dysfunctional work, lack of commitment to achieve shared goals, and a high trust culture employees are comfortable with being vulnerable with one another asking for help when needed and not concealing the weaknesses and providing constructive feedback that helps the team succeed. There was so much forced vulnerability and when forced into being vulnerable, people would then use that as an opportunity to break trust. And this is kind of the point of which I’m going to introduce how I got the recording. I was originally brought on I was fun Once again, on one area, but as I kept diving in to one area, I noticed there were gaps and other areas that were having, you know, business experience. I thought, Okay, well, this is an opportunity for us to fill these gaps. It’s really easy. There were two managers that could get along. They could not

Unknown Speaker 25:17
both sucked in their own way. They were nice people, but

Unknown Speaker 25:21
people separately, but the minute you put them together, they just had very different communication styles. And one would think one was being condescending. And then the other one was thinking they were being condescending, and this one’s being

Unknown Speaker 25:31
weak. Is that a theme here? condescension, I feel like it is I feel like this company is afraid of real feelings.

Unknown Speaker 25:39
Well, we’ll get into toxic positivity later. But so they had had this misunderstanding for months. So I saw the CEO approached me and said, Are you able to come up with come up with a way to solve this? And I was like, well, I’ll look into it. So one of these two managers had hired me. So I had had like, a level of trust with the hiring manager. And started going into these interviews with the managers and the teams to try and establish where the miscommunication was coming from, because it was significant was making the teams essentially just loathe each other. And literally, it just boiled down to different communication styles. Super simple. So when I was speaking with them individually, I would take notes, I would listen, I tried to understand kind of the intricacies. And at one point, in one conversation, the conversation went on for two hours. And it was me, like me, I open ended questions like, tell me about your most challenging experience, tell me what you struggle most with communication wise. And because it went on for so long, I recorded the conversation, because I was like, I can come back to this later and take notes. What I didn’t understand at the time, so I had told the hiring manager that I’d recorded the conversation. And very quickly, I worked out that the hiring manager was really only using this opportunity to get essentially fire this other manager, they wanted to get enough information to said this person wasn’t good at their job, which they weren’t, we know, but not a big issue. At this point. I then went to the CEO and said, Look, I have an inkling that this is what’s happening, I am seeing with my eyeballs. And my experience, that this manager who hired me wants to get rid of the other manager and it’s using me as Han well, not even a porn, but I’d like to I to spotlight the issues in the team. So that, you know, the CEO absolutely knew that this recording had taken place. I deleted it like not long after. That’s why I say there’s no one that could have had this recording because it was the one and only recording I ever did. And I wasn’t even officially part of the team yet. You know, I was just a contractor coming in and doing these small odd jobs. Anyways, so the other manager didn’t get along and wanted the other one demoted or fired. So I let the CEO know, and was told to just let it play out. Because again, they didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes or make anyone upset. And the CEO hated confrontation and difficult conversations. So I did I just let it go. And it was really sad that three years later, this conversation came up to get rid of me is that it’s really difficult to believe to be honest as

Unknown Speaker 28:47
also like, I feel like if you had mentioned that to the CEO, CEO or CFO or whatever, they should have been like, oh, that’s, that’s illegal in the state. Like for here like you need to you need to delete that immediately. Yeah, like, you know, I, if I was the CEO of that company, I would be like, ask you why you did that. And then say like, okay, just so you know, like, you’re obviously not Americans. So since we’re based in America, these are the rules we abide by. And that’s actually illegal in that state. So please delete it immediately. Like,

Unknown Speaker 29:21
oh, sure. And would there have been a problem with that conversation? No.

Unknown Speaker 29:25
Yeah, the CEO. I mean, I’m sorry, the CEO was very, not willing to have difficult conversations, you know, and for in my position, I think, there there was no trust. First of all, my team did not trust me. Because of what you said in the beginning, there was no actual real change management. It wasn’t announced in a way that made people understand. And I probably my part to play in that was that I trusted them and respected them enough to think that we were actually a team But we weren’t, nor we weren’t. And they, you know, they, they were the first ones to throw me under the bus,

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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