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S1E11 When toxic leadership impacts every part of the work you do! We Interview Dr. Danielle Lord

Welcome to this insightful interview conducted by Nicola and Gina, where they sat down with Dr. Danielle Lord to discuss toxic workplaces. With over 30 years of experience in Organizational Development, Dr. Danielle Lord has an extensive understanding of adult learning theory, employee engagement, leadership development, and how organizations function as living systems.

Dr. Lord’s Ph.D. in Leadership Theory has solidified her belief in the crucial need for ethical leadership and how it impacts organizational culture and employee commitment to businesses. She highlights the common confusion between managing and leading and the importance of understanding when and how to employ both for optimal results.

In today’s workplace, many employees and employers experience organizational pain, leading to stress, frustration, and dissatisfaction. However, Dr. Lord believes that there is a better way to run businesses and create a fulfilling work environment. If you’re looking for a unique solution to address your organizational needs, Dr. Lord can help.

Don’t leave this essential work in the hands of someone with limited experience! Join Nicola and Gina in this informative interview with Dr. Danielle Lord to gain insights on how to create a healthier workplace.

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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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Nicola [00:01:25] In this week’s episode. Oh my God, I’m so excited. Have you ever heard of the Tall Poppy syndrome?

Gina [00:01:33] The tall puppy.

Nicola [00:01:35] Puppy?

Gina [00:01:36] Oh, like the flower Poppy. Okay. The. Let’s hear this tall poppy theory.

Nicola [00:01:43] Okay, So. Mm hmm. New research shows that almost 90% of women worldwide are belittled and undermined because of their success at work. The tallest puppy. A groundbreaking study for these people called Woman of Influence.

Gina [00:02:03] Who did the study? Do we know?

Nicola [00:02:05] Yeah. Woman of influence.

Gina [00:02:06] Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t put that together yet. Will slow down.

Nicola [00:02:10] Opening store, yadda yadda yadda. Negatively impacts ambitious high performing woman and what it means for organizations. We heard from more than 4700 working women from all demographics and professions over 100 countries to determine how their mental health, well-being, engagement and performance are affected by interactions with clients, colleagues and leaders surrounding their success and accomplishments. We noted a recurring theme.

Gina [00:02:37] Here it is. Here. Here’s my meat and potatoes.

Nicola [00:02:39] Those who head or are experiencing tall poppy syndrome did not know these phenomena had a name. Who is doing the cutting of the tall poppies? Men were more reporting, more mortared. Men were reported more likely to undermine women due to their success. Hmm. Our women in the workplace being cut down. 77% of women downplay their achievements. 72% of women feel left out or ignored. 68% of them just dismiss their achievements.

Gina [00:03:15] Right. So I feel like it’s exactly what Dr. Amber was saying, like her, while she just focused on women. And I would love to I would love them to do the tall poppy seed like the top poppy plan. No, like women cutting women down because there’s a man. Yeah, that would be like Dr. Amber is jam like I’m sure women who were either same level or higher level but noticed someone who was like a star would even subconsciously try to tall poppy.

Nicola [00:03:44] But how is that, though, that because I know that tall poppy is like a massive thing here in New Zealand. Like, you have to downplay any success you have because you can’t be cooler than anyone else. How ridiculous is that, though? Like, I want to be able to celebrate when you win an award or when you do something cool, like, why are we doing this to people, especially women? Why are we doing this?

Gina [00:04:09] I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t. Our episode with Dr. Amber, I, you know, she went into the reasons why. Like societal culture, like the different pressures, learning microaggressions early in your childhood, like tons of different things and like the inherent need to compare yourself to other women. I don’t know if men have that as much as women. I think they have it, but not nearly to the degree that women have it. And I think women that.

Nicola [00:04:38] Comparison plays a part. Then when you’re in the workplace and men are more likely to cut you down because that comparison is then, hey, we’re at the same level in an organization. And you know, you can’t be better than me because I’m a man forever.

Gina [00:04:56] It’s probably more even more subconscious than that as. Probably like she probably doesn’t you know, she’s not as good at her job as me that as me because I’m a man and men are just superior. Like, I feel like it’s the old script, you know, the old tape being played.

Nicola [00:05:11] You know, I did I once did something very disruptive at a workplace that I worked at. And I was really I was proud of my move. I did like a solid, sly move.

Gina [00:05:23] All right. Let’s hear.

Nicola [00:05:25] We had been talking about period poverty. And I was working at a tertiary institutions or like a university style environment. Okay. And the statistics were that currently, as it stood, 60% at the time, 60% of girls would miss university classes because of period poverty. That’s a lot. Yes, that’s a lot of people missing school because you’re on your period because they didn’t have access to tampons, pads or whatever they needed. Right? Mm hmm. Yeah. Or I at the time, I was the youngest senior leadership team member by 25 years. Wow. And I was like, okay, I need to make an impact, but one that is cheap. Like I need to be cheeky enough. I need to like, kind of ride the blade of glory. Mm hmm.

Gina [00:06:24] Yeah.

Nicola [00:06:24] So I got into this meeting. I did my normal, boring spiel of and thank you for coming to my meeting. And here’s my 47 slides on reporting more and more. And then I had one slide that was read, and I asked all the woman to stand up. And I counted them out. I divided them up into 60% and I said, For the rest of this entire meeting, these women cannot reach into the meeting room.

Gina [00:06:50] And what. What happened?

Nicola [00:06:51] They were like, What? I was like, Yeah, calm. Come back into the meeting. And then once they left the meeting, I went on to say, You know, those are valuable opinions that we’ve just lost in this meeting. And that is exactly what’s happening every month for some of these girls that cannot come to school.

Gina [00:07:11] And so what was did they did they start giving free stuff out?

Nicola [00:07:15] Yeah, we I think we were one of the first universities that started providing free menstrual products. That’s awesome. Yeah. Just go.

Gina [00:07:24] Grab. Sometimes people need, like, a visual. Yeah. And I saw.

Nicola [00:07:30] And it was quite impactful because a lot of people came up to me afterwards and say, you know, that was a really impactful presentation. And I was like, I didn’t even give a presentation. But I think, you know, presentation here I think was just me being a smart ass.

Gina [00:07:46] Yeah. I mean, but it was a good way to demonstrate it. I mean, I think my biggest impact was getting people not to like me, which is no impact at all. And I didn’t even mean to do that.

Nicola [00:07:58] I think people just copy much. I don’t know.

Gina [00:08:00] People say that my voice is condescending and I don’t mean it to be, but it’s just my voice.

Nicola [00:08:05] You know what? I’ve I’ve listened to our voices more than I would like. Oh, my God.

Gina [00:08:11] If I ever have to hear you again. For the love of God. No.

Nicola [00:08:14] Baby Jesus. I’m so sick of my own voice. Like I’m sick of your voice. I’m sick of my voice. I’m sick of everybody’s voice. Like, just shut Aria. So I don’t. I actually think my voice is more condescending than your voice.

Gina [00:08:28] Do you think we just suffer from, like, faux condescending voice?

Nicola [00:08:33] Maybe because I was giving you a compliment the other day and I sounded like a total cons. I was like, And you’re doing such a good job, Barry. And I’m like, Who the fuck is saying? Like, I’m thinking like, I’m listening back to me and I’m like.

Gina [00:08:49] Like crying about my performances.

Nicola [00:08:52] And I’m like, But I’m giving you a compliment. It sounds like I’m not even giving you a compliment. It sounds like I’m being a dick. I was like, Wow, babe. Reflection.

Gina [00:09:03] I don’t know. I mean, I’ve been, you know, accused of being condescending before when I know, like, people know when I’m condescending, like it’s a show, like it’s an event. I sell tickets and I, you know, people know. I’d be like, Oh, is that what you really think? Are you sure you’re going to stick with that? Because and then I’ll go on to explain why they’re fucking wrong. But my regular, like, my regular voice is just like this. And so many people in my life and I’ve, like, looked at myself, I’ve been like, is my voice condescending? Like I’ve tried to I don’t.

Nicola [00:09:38] Know where you you’re when you’re targeted, you can be condescending, but for your normal voice, not my normal voice is condescending. I’m just an asshole, apparently.

Gina [00:09:49] Well, I hear. I hear you. I feel like we just have fake, condescending voices of that wanting them.

Nicola [00:09:54] Maybe it’s like resting bitch face, but that’s.

Gina [00:09:57] What I’m saying. I think it is.

Nicola [00:10:00] I do.

Gina [00:10:01] Voice Yes. So today we are going to be speaking with Danielle. Lord Okay, that’s what I thought. So, Dr.. Dr. Lord, I love that.

Nicola [00:10:12] I would always say, Oh, good morning. Good morning, Danielle. How are you.

Speaker 3 [00:10:17] Doing? Well, how are you?

Gina [00:10:19] Danielle, Why don’t you introduce yourself? Who are you? What do you what do you do? What are you? If you have credentials, give us your credentials.

Nicola [00:10:28] Ready? We just spoke about how cool it is to call you Dr. Lord. Like, I feel like that’s a fun time.

Gina [00:10:33] That’s so.

Nicola [00:10:34] Cool.

Danielle [00:10:35] Well, please call me Danielle. And. Yeah, so welcome to be here. Thanks for having me. Nicola and Gina. It’s always fun to talk about all things leadership and just the depth and breadth of everything with it and in the scope of what happens in organizations. So as you mentioned, my name is Dr. Danielle Lord. Again, please call me Danielle. I have a PhD in leadership theory and I have spent my 30 year career working in organizations really to help organizations eradicate pain, helping leaders understand the important role that they have, and reducing the pain and the frustration that sometimes comes with the exact types of things that you’re talking about in terms of the toxic workforce. And it’s a real thing. It exists, and it’s really time we acknowledge it and say it really does. It’s out there and we can do better.

Gina [00:11:29] I think that’s basically the main point of our podcast is like, let’s talk about it. Like let’s be open about it. We want to remove the stigma of feeling bullied and. Like standing out for bad reasons, you know. So can you explain how how you got into this? Like, did you come from a toxic workplace? What what exactly happened to get you to go down this path?

Danielle [00:11:55] Oh, I have certainly had my share of being in toxic work environments. And I think prior to that, even early well, late in my college, many years of bachelors, I spent time in the Soviet Union or what was the Soviet Union? It was on its own dying process. And but I saw a lot of just real cruelty and thought, boy, you know, as humans, we just why are we treating each other so terribly? I’m people drug out of bus chairs from, you know, little girls, nine year old girls grabbed by the back of their ponytail and dragged out of a bus seat so somebody else could sit down. I’m ambulance drivers at a university really injured foot walk to the ambulance. I’m in the streets of our on the streets of Moscow having to step over a deceased human. Those are things I think those things really impacted me at a pretty early age to really adopt and embrace the personal value of compassion in my own life. And I think that that has carried through this notion of compassion, has really carried through into the work that I do from an organizational development perspective, helping leaders understand that there’s a better way, there’s a different way. We don’t have to have pain helping employees understand there’s there can be a better way. Let’s work through some of the pain and the dysfunction. But I hate to put that onus on the team members or the employees because they’re oftentimes plunked down into a culture in which they have no capacity to control that culture. And that responsibility really lies with the leaders to to own it and say, yeah, it exists, and what’s my role in it? My role really is to make sure that we have a work environment that supports and sustains.

Nicola [00:13:52] The full.

Danielle [00:13:53] Access that each human can bring into the organization, because that’s ultimately how the organization is going to meet their goals.

Nicola [00:13:59] Well, I’m really curious to know. So you’ve you’ve kind of had this, I want to say, almost traumatic experience, because it sounds like it was not a fun time. And it’s it’s given you into, you know, compassion and empathy. Is that something that you notice that maybe leaders are lacking in 2023? Is that compassion and empathy?

Danielle [00:14:25] Very much so. I really do believe that we are we’re gosh, I could really speak on this. I don’t know how how much you want me to go down the rabbit hole. But the quick answer is yes. Worse, over the past few years because of the trauma that collectively worldwide we have all been through with the COVID and the lockdowns and the fear and everything else that’s occurred within the last couple of years. So I think that that trauma is impacting and we need to now embrace more and more compassion. But that said, we have it’s my contention that we’ve been operating from a place of management really since about the feudal era when the whole the feudal manor was survival and you were born into one of two stations in life. You either you had through your nobility and your birthright or you were a have not and meaning that.

Nicola [00:15:20] All.

Danielle [00:15:21] The have nots really worked to sustain the manor. And because there was no hope or intention or even any real expectation that you would be promoted into anything other than a serf, there is no you know, there’s no need for competition. There is no need to stand out. There is no need to develop and enhance your own skills, etc.. So it was very much command and control. Do this because I am telling you to do it. And that’s how the entire manner existed, in the manner existed in order for the survival of everyone. So we’ve kind of functioned this way for about 800 years now. We continue to function this way, even as the manners started to shut down in the early part of the 20th century, and we moved more into the industrial age, the industrial revolution, where we had people who were they were called great men at the time, the great man theory, and they spent probably the equivalent in today’s dollars of millions of dollars in infrastructure and semi-automated equipment. Well, the investment was in the equipment. The investment wasn’t in the people, and the people were they’re just just there to run the equipment. And if someone got injured, there is a line of people waiting outside the door. So we continue to operate that way is even as the doors of our organizations open. So we didn’t even really know that there was a different way or the degree of influence that people had in this work until the 1920s when we started to do a series of psychological studies. And it wasn’t even until the 1960s when we realized it’s all about the people, and it’s not about the equipment, it’s about the people, It’s about the relationships, the compassion, empathy that we bring into it. And that marriage between the relationship and the productivity actually enhances the productivity and not the other way around, which is kind of that backward mindset of where we have a lot of people right now. As you’re here to work, you’re here to do your job. I don’t have to be nice to you, right? I we can set up this culture and operate in this place of fear and we’ll get more done. The exact opposite of what we need. So, yes, I believe we’re really operating in a composite deficit.

Nicola [00:17:32] So tell us and tell us a little bit. Let’s kind of get into Gina’s favorite saying, the meat and potatoes. I have not made that into an Instagram post. Lord, I don’t know.

Gina [00:17:47] I don’t know. You’ve made everything else you possibly could into an Instagram post.

Nicola [00:17:50] Oh, you haven’t even seen my bed yet. Thank you. What? You haven’t even seen my battle exposed yet. Oh, my.

Gina [00:17:58] God. I’m so excited. Danielle, I called Nicola Battle AX once and she was like, You know what? I’ll take it. It’s not bad.

Nicola [00:18:05] Boss. Bitch. Right over here. What I’m curious to know, Danielle, is tell us a little bit about some of the really toxic workplaces that you’ve, like, blended yourself into that either you’ve had to kind of look into changing the culture or you were just a unwilling participants of the journey of destruction.

Danielle [00:18:29] Yeah, I think the first my first kind of foray into this as an unwilling participant was I was just finishing up my master’s degree and I had been in health care for a number of years. And when I talk about a toxic environment, health care is full of it. But I had been working in nursing homes and long term care and then went into more of a consulting role within an organization that was a startup company. That was my kind of foray into.

Gina [00:18:59] I see like already three red flags. Danielle started.

Nicola [00:19:04] Being.

Gina [00:19:04] A consultant and small, but yes, carry on.

Danielle [00:19:09] Yeah, Great Call out on the startup for sure.

Nicola [00:19:14] So yeah, of course.

Danielle [00:19:16] You know, you get this cool title of consultant and I was still pretty young but the first red flag so this this particular individual who was kind of a mean guy I am a great guy when you meet him, but at the organizational level as the president, there are definitely some red flags that I should have picked up on pretty early on. The first one being that his favorite thing to do for new hires was to talk about how much he loved Halloween and that he really required everyone to get dressed up and they’d have a big party and, you know, cake and ice cream and all those fun things that you do it Halloween. And there were prizes for the best costume. And then he’d let some poor new hires show up, all jazzed up and dressed up and become the laughing stock of the office for the day. So. Big red flag, right?

Gina [00:20:01] Wait, so nobody actually did get dressed up?

Danielle [00:20:04] No, no, It was all a joke. Joke on the person.

Nicola [00:20:08] Why?

Gina [00:20:09] You know, like I don’t like you. That’s why I even, like, spend that energy on this. Elaborate.

Nicola [00:20:15] You go, you hire you, you dress up. Good job.

Danielle [00:20:20] Yeah. Yeah, it was.

Gina [00:20:22] This is straight out of the office. This is straight out of the office. The episode where Michael has to approve everyone’s costumes, But I swear to God, he’s like, No, we already have two nurses. You can’t be a nurse.

Nicola [00:20:37] And not in that way. Yeah, that was a great thing.

Danielle [00:20:41] But yeah, that was his favorite thing to do for new hires. And yeah, talk about setting up a culture of cruelty.

Gina [00:20:49] Yeah.

Danielle [00:20:50] And the joke’s on you, and it doesn’t matter what you do. It’s okay to be cruel and to be a jerk.

Nicola [00:20:57] It really isn’t, because.

Gina [00:20:59] No, I mean, obviously it’s not. But that that’s a great example of how he set up the employees to be in fear. Like, is everything a joke? Oh, my God, what’s happening? Like, people are going to start second guessing themselves straight off the bat, You know?

Nicola [00:21:13] That’s so horrible. So horrible.

Gina [00:21:17] Did he do that with you, Danielle? Did you come dressed up?

Danielle [00:21:20] He didn’t. And I had heard about it prior to. So I think I had started in about April. And it wasn’t until I saw a gal named Leslie who had worked for him for quite a while, had told everyone about it. And so right there now, because the leader has said this is isn’t this. And this is fun and games. Now every employee says it’s okay to behave this way.

Nicola [00:21:45] So you’ve set a precedent of being a precedent.

Gina [00:21:50] Now, before we get into your second toxic workplace. What would you have done differently in this one, knowing what you know now? Like, you know, having a. Yeah.

Nicola [00:22:00] How would you break in the cycle and break in? Wow.

Gina [00:22:03] You’re right.

Nicola [00:22:04] Second Circuit breaking the cycle.

Gina [00:22:10] What you have done. Now, knowing what you know, having your Ph.D. have being a little more seasoned. What do you think you could have done differently? Or could you have had a conversation with him?

Danielle [00:22:19] I think certainly having a a crucial conversation. Yeah. Heart to heart would certainly be something that you would want to do, provide some coaching. The problem with that is, and this is where leadership development gets really tricky, is I as a leader, have to be able to say, Oh wow, I didn’t realize I’ve been a jackass for 20 years.

Gina [00:22:41] Right. Because most people are not willing to do that.

Danielle [00:22:44] Most people are not willing to confront those demons. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And we what.

Gina [00:22:50] Do you do when you are up against someone who’s like, this behavior is totally fine. Do you, like, refer them out to therapy for early try.

Nicola [00:22:59] Or.

Gina [00:23:00] Something? Like, what do you do?

Nicola [00:23:01] What was it? Instance and stands conversation where her excuse for being a shitty leader was because she had childhood trauma?

Danielle [00:23:10] Yeah.

Gina [00:23:10] Because, you know, she wasn’t. She didn’t feel loved when she was a child.

Nicola [00:23:13] She wasn’t loved as a child.

Gina [00:23:15] Join the club.

Nicola [00:23:15] It’s lady. It’s. It’s. It’s.

Danielle [00:23:18] And you know, if you can’t have the conversation with them at that kind of heart level. Right. To say, you know, what you’re doing is causing trauma, causing fear, setting a precedent for your entire organization to function as in a bullying, toxic manner. Start to bring some data. Right. What’s going to happen? And usually what’s have there is great research that was done about 1919 12.

Nicola [00:23:45] Oh one reason to read that in the 1912. Well, a lot.

Gina [00:23:50] About toxic workplaces.

Nicola [00:23:51] And toxic workplace. Yeah. But we didn’t realize them.

Danielle [00:23:57] So 2012, Kerry Fiske and Glick, and they looked at at a quadrant of.

Nicola [00:24:03] Warmth.

Danielle [00:24:04] And competence. So if you don’t have any warmth, if you can’t demonstrate that compassion or that empathy, and you saw that with a certain level, what will happen is employers will become disengaged and they actually can begin to see passive sabotage or active sabotage. And I’ve certainly seen plenty of both. And then just that subtlety of, you know, well, I’m going to clock in 10 minutes early every day, and that will give me, you know, half an hour of overtime or whatever the case is so we can start to build a case if you don’t want to see it, if you don’t want to. If I can’t tell you, you need to change. I can begin to bring you some data. And so what does that data look like? Data points that are inhibiting your organization from meeting their strategic goals. And is that or aren’t you, after trying to grow your own organization. So turn over data on.

Nicola [00:24:59] All.

Danielle [00:24:59] Kinds of ways that you can get that data, But sometimes you have to know the individual well enough to say, okay, are they going to be moved by a compelling story or am I going to need to bring them some data? Yes, And that’s.

Gina [00:25:11] Smart, like because science doesn’t lie. That’s why data is so nice, because it’s you can’t refute it. So what happens, though, when we’re Nicole and I met like they truly thought that they were being supportive and creating a culture of mental health and well-being when it couldn’t in reality, from the truth. Yeah, like that was not the reality I lived in. It certainly wasn’t the reality Nicole lived in. I think other people might think differently. Again, we had the most experience out of everyone, including the CEO and owner. We had the most, you know, corporate experience and experience is in our field, so that might have made us slightly different.

Nicola [00:25:51] Mm hmm. But what do.

Gina [00:25:52] You do when you when you can see as a consultant or looking as someone looking, you know, from the outside into a company where the the upper management C-level suite is really awful, but they don’t think they think the opposite. They think they’re creating this wonderful environment for their employees to be in. Like, I don’t I don’t know if the guy with the Halloween prank that he would have thought, yes, this is a wonderful environment to work in. He probably wanted people to be fearful of him. Right.

Danielle [00:26:22] So possible.

Nicola [00:26:23] Yeah.

Gina [00:26:24] Yeah. In our case, these people, I believe, genuinely thought they were, like, creating a wonderful working situation for all of their employees.

Nicola [00:26:35] Yeah, I agree. I think in their minds they had created this. Or have created this environment where they have made people believe that, you know, well-being is at the forefront and yada, yada, yada. But in reality, those people unfortunately are still drinking the Kool-Aid. And it’s like, no, actually you’ve created a really toxic working environment that is not sustainable and you’re just not getting in the people that you need to make your business thrive so.

Danielle [00:27:04] Well.

Gina [00:27:05] In that situation. Danielle.

Danielle [00:27:07] Yeah, that’s the that’s the biggest challenge, right, is that we have these leaders who are in the mindset of, all right, I’ve gotten to this point, so I must be invaluable. Right? There’s there’s that piece is is getting people to move past their own ego and overcoming deeply held beliefs. And again, those things require or those things create a lot of cognitive dissonance. So they require time to overcome. So all you can really do is begin to provide them with the facts, the data and the details. Ask them to have some serious sit down conversations about it and provide, again, more data, focus groups, employee engagement scores, and really some deep, intense listening. But it’s it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge in most organizations, leaders, formal leaders. Right. Because we all lead. We all have the capacity to lead. But until we get those formal leaders to really understand conversations that there is pain in organizations and there’s a different way, a better way to be doing things, I don’t know that we can just broad brush it with a quick fix. And that’s that’s where we’re at right now, I think, in a lot of organizations is we’re up against these challenges.

Gina [00:28:19] What could we have done differently, like as employees like we were. So we were all at management level. So it was the CEO, CEO and then the leaders of the team. So like Nicole and I were, you know, head of a head of a department, basically, we were the department head, so we were just below C-suite. What could we have done differently? Like, we questioned some things with some changes, and I questioned things why they were doing things a certain way that would have been beneficial for them to stop doing. But of course they didn’t. You know, they didn’t like what we had to say. So what do you think we could have done differently?

Nicola [00:28:54] Can we just pause here for a second and remind people that if this podcast is something you enjoy, we would love to hear from you.

Gina [00:29:01] You can find us on Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. Let’s break up toxic workplace stories.

Nicola [00:29:06] Sharing and subscribing really helps us feel validated.

Danielle [00:29:10] Ripping everything apart and starting over basically.

Gina [00:29:14] Which is what we tried to do.

Danielle [00:29:16] Okay, Yeah. Yeah. So that’s getting down to the fundamental brass tacks, sitting down with everyone on your team, right. And having those really deep, intense conversations. That’s something that’s really missing in a lot of organizations. We tend to get on this, Oh, look, I got these deadlines I need to meet, so I’m not going to spend any time with the team members. Right? So trying to sit down and establishing those relationships and establishing those relationships within your team, because once we have those relationships, it’s difficult to time most normal, healthy people, right? Don’t want to badmouth someone that we’ve become friends with, right? We really want to do everything we can to establish and maintain the friendship. So having establishing some core values in and amongst that.

Gina [00:30:04] That gives me fucking the heebie jeebies, the words core values it gives me. Yeah, right.

Nicola [00:30:11] Well, let’s, let’s, let’s unpack this. Okay. I think I think when you’re in a mature organization and by mature I mean experienced individuals in an organization, I think when you’re developing and creating core values, the opportunity to make really meaningful, really insightful core values is paramount. And you need some kind of like the baseline of everybody’s going to do this. However, when you are in a startup and you have only got inexperienced people, and if you have those people creating your core values, now you’ve got a suite of core values that are so insipid and so childish.

Gina [00:31:00] And actually an.

Nicola [00:31:01] Awesome part of business from these core values, and we call it we joke about it, we call them the Dr. Seuss isms, because it was just like, Oh, the place. Did you know.

Gina [00:31:11] Your green Eggs and Ham? Every day you.

Nicola [00:31:13] Do. And it’s like, these make no logical sense.

Gina [00:31:17] Yeah. Yeah.

Danielle [00:31:18] And and that’s a really valid point that when we talk about what our core values or our values of our organization, they have to be real. Value is based on something, right? They can’t be like you call them Dr. Seuss isms, right? They have to mean something that you can attach behavior to and measure behavior. So I can say, Well, Nicholson. Gina consists consistently meet the values of the organization, and because of that, there now are positive deviants that we want to be constantly looking to, to how things should be done and in a manner that’s going to get us to the objectives of our organization. So finding those positive events is really one thing that you can do to help shift the culture, because now suddenly all the eyes are going to be on you. Well, what is it that Nicola and Gina are doing? Because they’re hitting all their marks. Everybody else over here will kind of floundering, trying to figure things out. So how do we look to the two of you now to say, what is it that you’re doing? We want more of we want more of you, right? We want more of the good behavior because the behavior is driving the performance rather than the performance driving the bad behavior. But so within your team, even if those core values are Dr. Seuss isms, as you call them, and there’s nothing to really hang your hat on, you as a team can come together and identify what your values are and what behaviors that you want to see within your own team as normalized good behaviors and begin to work towards those. The culture change is one of the most difficult changes that exists within an organization, and that’s why it’s so critical that these things get addressed early on in the right way. But again, so many people just don’t even understand the significance and the importance of these subtleties within their organization. And suddenly you’ve got just this toxic shit hole. And this is why I tell folks going into leadership roles, particularly when they are coming in and taking over an intact team, is to really spend the time to get to know those people. Not only so you get to know them, but so they get to know you. But most everyone is is probably working from what they call the amygdala hijack. Are you familiar with that term, the amygdala hijack?

Gina [00:33:36] Oh, let’s hear it. I want to hear all about it. Sounds like you.

Nicola [00:33:39] Probably.

Danielle [00:33:40] Know it better as fighter flight.

Gina [00:33:43] Okay.

Danielle [00:33:43] So that the amygdala is a little tiny walnut shaped portion right in the center of your brain. It’s your emotional memory center. And so when we get into a place of fear, trauma, stress, we make all of our decisions from that a fight or flight basis rather than our frontal cortex. Right. So even, as I say, get to know everyone, spend time with them, because everyone’s still operating from that fight or flight rather than the frontal cortex. It does take time because you have to get everyone past them out of that amygdala hijack and into their executive functioning center, which is in the frontal cortex. So it takes a lot of time to do that, especially when they have been traumatized. And that’s what makes this work so hard. Right? It’s like, wait, how how many more times can I be resilient in this? Right, as you’re because you’re going through the pain and trauma as well. But everything is just continuing to be in a downward spiral and nothing’s getting addressed. I had a very similar situation when I went to work for the state and I’m in the state of Washington, so I was hired as the chief learning officer and it was like, Oh, my dream job, Chief Learning officer. And I walked into one of the most toxic dysfunction experiences of my life and only lasted a short time, like not even a year. But there was a very angry woman who thought that she should have had the role she had been in, the role as the acting chief learning officer for a few months, and really believed that it was her time to have the role. She’d been with the state for 20 years. She probably the epitome of biggest narcissist I’ve ever encountered. She would whip out Kobe’s 50 list of 50 trust busters, and she’d go down the list and she’d say, Well, number 37, yeah, you violated trust issue number 37. You know, like I had any of these. Yeah, we can’t catalog 37 things in our head. We can only hold on to five or.

Nicola [00:35:43] Three or.

Danielle [00:35:43] Four or five at any, you know, in our best case, our best day. Oh, yeah. So she would find every little reason and she ran that place from a state, that exact state of fear where everyone was afraid to say anything. It took me several months to break through that of long conversations with people and getting to know them and getting them to the point where they could trust me. And it took it was some there were some pretty rough moments when she made a couple people cry in the room and we had to have a serious conversation about it. And that was probably the thing that got me fired, was that I wrote her up for making people cry.

Nicola [00:36:24] Yeah, as a.

Danielle [00:36:25] Direct violation of what I said was not acceptable within our team. But at least they knew that they could trust me because I had stood up for them. Right. But still, even that took weeks and weeks and weeks. Of being there and demonstrating the right, showing the right behaviors. So at one point I said to one of my team members, it’s a good morning. How are you, Shelly? How’s your day going? And she. Oh, yeah, fine. Great. Saw her a second point during the day and I said, Hey, Shelly, how’s your day going? Hope it’s progressing well. And she just stared at me for a few minutes. And then she turned and walked away and she came back. She knocked on my office door about an hour later and she said, I’m so sorry I behaved like that. She said, But no one, I’ve been with the state of Washington for 20 years and no manager has ever acknowledged me, let alone twice, let alone not acknowledge me twice in one day, let alone once and one day. So for you to have said hello to me first, twice in one day, I didn’t even know how to respond to that, you know, And that’s the kind of pain and frustration over time that seeps into the culture. It’s like being in an abusive relationship. If you’ve ever had an abusive partner or boyfriend, you know how insidious it is. And suddenly you’re just as mine sucked as the person that’s doing the abuse right. And you don’t even realize it.

Gina [00:37:51] To describe it like your mind fucked and you don’t even realize it. It’s like buying into a colleague. Nicole Yeah, I always say, like, there’s a very fine line I feel like between toxic workplaces and cult culture because, you know, you really start getting brainwashed. You think that this is the way it’s done, this is the right way, this is normal. This is normal. Like this level of, you know, non trust is normal. And always like looking behind, looking over your shoulder, knowing someone’s going to say something about you behind your back or whatever. The cases we kind of got went way off there. But well.

Danielle [00:38:26] Well, I’ll finish with the Halloween guys story. So and I still tell the story to this day, particularly when I’m working with leaders am around conflict. But we had a really awful situation that occurred that resulted in the death of a one of the patients in one of the nursing homes. And as in small startups, our other duties as assigned it typically falls to everyone. I was managing our risk portfolio in our insurance portfolio. And so this incident report came across as a huge red flag patient death. And I wanted to bring it up and it got dismissed at the directors meeting. And so we had we had another couple other really toxic individuals within this organization as well. But I brought it up at our larger management team meeting, which included the CEO and the CFO, that this is a problem. I’m a woman, somebodies mother, grandmother, auntie, etc. A woman died on our watch. We broke two laws and so far nobody’s been willing to address this. And so now I’m bringing it to the attention. One of the other really toxic gals quickly stood up and proceeded to verbally filet me on the boardroom table. The CEO pushed his chair back, put his feet up on the on the table, leaned back in the chair with his hands behind his head and said, I love it when the girls fight you.

Nicola [00:40:00] What is wrong with people? Someone get the jailing.

Gina [00:40:04] Yeah, Guess what’s the down count on those pillows?

Danielle [00:40:06] Yeah, it’s a pretty unpleasant experience. And I was not there that much longer.

Gina [00:40:11] Did you. Did you leave that workplace or did they ask you to go? How did that go?

Danielle [00:40:17] Yeah, they terminated my employment after 911 when the economy kind of tanked. So that’s how long ago that was. But the memory is still so fresh in my mind. And like I said, I tell the story any time I teach anything related to conflict about just that is the absolute opposite of the response. You would expect anyone in the in the team to have, let alone the CEO and the owner of the company.

Gina [00:40:46] But I have felt like just playing devil’s advocate, like assuming that, you know, assuming you stayed on, right, like hypothetically you stayed on, how shitty would you have felt about working for that company? Oh, yeah. Trying to be like somewhat of a whistleblower or just like, Hey, we have to look at this to learn how to do better next time or whatever. There’s a possible lawsuit, and that’s how they’re acting like, yeah, I feel like I would feel so. GROSS.

Danielle [00:41:12] Yeah. Oh, I did. I did. So it was, you know, a blessing that I was let go when I was four, you know, because of the economy. But yeah, it was not a good feeling. Like I said, you know, this was somebody’s mother, grandmother, and we were the direct cause of her death. I felt horrible about it. I mean, that’s how, you know, as you should anyone should feel about that, right? Not just oh, it’s it’s a person. It’s a it’s a number. It’s it’s happened because she was old. Whatever the case is. Yeah. Who wants to work for that organization? The win. I think the really important thing to understand as we unpack this topic, particularly from leaders, is that in the sense that you have employees who cannot leave the organization, what’s happening, that you’re not aware of it. So we are saying we’ll just leave, find another job. There’s plenty of jobs out there, right? Well, there’s high exit costs sometimes for people. Some people are working in a really specialized field and there’s not a lot of opportunity for them. There’s very limited jobs in my field, which is why I started my own business. But maybe it’s 3 minutes from my house and I don’t have a car. I don’t want to buy a car. So it’s much more convenient for me to walk. Maybe the work is close to my child’s school, and so in the event that I’m needed, I can be right there. It’s easy for me to pick them up. Maybe I can’t. I’m too close to retirement and I can’t get vested in another 401k plan soon enough. So there’s lots of reasons why exit costs are too high for people to just leave the organization. So, you know, lots of people just check out.

Gina [00:42:50] I think a big theme is that when you feel like undervalued or you’re in a workplace that’s not really letting you shine, like your productivity goes down, it’s just like what you check out and you just do the bare minimum so that you’re not raising any red flags or, you know, talking too much. You’re not ruffling feathers. That’s exactly what happened to me where Nicole and I met. I just stopped talking.

Danielle [00:43:14] But it does happen. And yeah, it’s frustrating.

Gina [00:43:16] I brought something. The CEO went around behind my back and spoke to a vendor without letting me know. And then she sent the CEO to tell me that that had happened. And I was like, Why wouldn’t she just need me on the communication? Like, I wouldn’t have intervened. Like, if she wants to talk to the vendor, of course she’s welcome to. She owns the company. But when I went back during a review and said like that really made me feel really upset because it to me it’s a distrust in my methods that are proven. It’s I can’t do my job. She wants to do my job. So it’s like if she wants to do my job, why hire me If she thinks she can do a better job than me, which historically she has not, why even hire me and the CEO just kind of like glossed over that and just kept going on with the meeting and I was just like, I was like, she’s cutting me off at the knees, you know?

Danielle [00:44:11] And it tells me that there’s a real inability for that individual to have any degree of beneficial conflict, too. And conflict isn’t fun. I mean, and no one likes to have conflict, but we have to be able to get these things out on the table and address the issue, leave the person behind. It’s not about the person, it’s about the issue. And once we tackle it from a perspective of the issue, then we can begin to identify where we have barriers and obstacles. And those are sometimes the uncomfortable, more uncomfortable things to unpack. Because oftentimes when there are barriers and obstacles, the leaders again have to put up that mirror in front of them and saying, What am I doing? Creating the barriers? Or so what are inhibiting?

Gina [00:44:54] I genuinely.

Nicola [00:44:55] Wonder, like, honestly, I’m so curious to know how people are surviving currently. I, I would assume that some of them, many of them have listened to our podcast and how they are so into the Kool-Aid and so into the fucking cult that they haven’t even realized that they need to do something about it and then just get like dig their feet in even deeper. Are you guys not actually realizing how toxic the environment is that you’re like digging in deeper?

Danielle [00:45:33] It’s cognitive dissonance, the inability to recognize that there’s a alternative outcome or an alternative situation. When we we work really hard to tell ourselves a story, and then we work even harder to convince ourselves that our story is correct. As come the ladder of inference, meaning that I find something, I see it, and then I will go to great lengths to climb and climb and climb up that ladder to find data, to find evidence, to find stories, to find people to support my own belief system around it. It’s probably a lot of things, right? That’s just one piece of it. There’s there’s the fact that when sometimes when you’re in the spider’s web, you can’t find a way out of it. You don’t realize how badly you’ve been gaslighted, if you will, until you’re out of it.

Gina [00:46:31] That company in particular, like, really created like a culture of like you’re lucky, Like, this is such a cool company. We’re doing such. Billy like.

Nicola [00:46:40] To be in this environments.

Gina [00:46:42] Like.

Danielle [00:46:42] That’s called.

Gina [00:46:44] Lucky to have. Let’s have a seat here. So you should hold on to it.

Nicola [00:46:48] Mm hmm. What did you say? The Hawthorne effect.

Danielle [00:46:50] Hawthorne effect? Meaning that somehow you’re part of something bigger, or you yourself have a Hawthorne effect because you have what you consider or perceived to be a high status position. Yeah, I’m part of something that’s super cool and super amazing. I’ll never get this anywhere else. I don’t want any area. It’s what I’m experiencing. Mm hmm.

Nicola [00:47:11] Wait, that’s a thing. Wait. Tell us more.

Gina [00:47:15] I feel like that’s, like, the starting of a cult.

Danielle [00:47:17] Yeah. You want to be something Part of something bigger. Part of something special? Absolutely. And we all like that, right? We only got a little ego boost. Mm hmm. Part of you’re part of the club. You’re getting this started. But that has a real powerful effect on us as humans. Yeah, well, I think that’s why cults are so attractive to people, is that there’s this compelling belief that I’m about to be something part of something really, really big. And it’s going to be tomorrow. It’s tomorrow’s tomorrow. Just one more day. Just a little bit more time. I can hang.

Gina [00:47:48] Much. That’s what got Nicola because Nicola was a consumer first, so she already enjoyed this brand. She was a like basically a customer of theirs. And so when it when you were offered this position, you were like, This is so fucking cool, right? Yeah, because you had already like.

Nicola [00:48:06] I kind of moved kind of through the ranks, the rides you did like. So I started off as a consumer and then said, Hey, we can like as your consumer influencer, I think we can do a better job with our influencers. And then kind of went from there and said, Hey, we can actually do a better job here, here and here, okay? We can do a better job here, here and here too. And oh, let’s keep going. Let’s make a better job here. Oh, look, look how much money I’m making you Now that I’ve fixed these problems.

Gina [00:48:37] They’re like, for me, I had never heard of the company, so I was just like, Whatever. I don’t get what the whole big hype is like. Everything that they’re doing is steadily and readily available on the market. Like there’s nothing here that’s really setting them apart from anyone else, in my opinion. So I didn’t have that feeling of I’m doing something where where I where I came in with my ego was I see how fucked up this situation is and I can fix it.

Danielle [00:49:06] I can’t.

Gina [00:49:07] Which I could have if they let me just if they left me alone to let me do my thing, I absolutely could have fixed it. But by then I didn’t give a shit anymore because the they weren’t valuing me. They were telling me I was making other people feel stupid.

Danielle [00:49:20] I was just going to say there have been multiple studies around what people will do when they believe that someone that they hold in high esteem is giving them orders to do so. We’ve seen it with the Stanford Prison experiments, if you’re familiar.

Nicola [00:49:39] With terrible experiment. I hate that so much.

Danielle [00:49:42] The Milgram experiments. Are you familiar with that one and that one?

Nicola [00:49:46] Do you know the Stanford experiment, though, Gina? Because it’s really fucked up.

Danielle [00:49:49] The Stanford prison experiments, I think it was in the late 1960s, early seventies at Stanford University. They took a bunch of grad students or students in general, and I made some of it, yeah, guards and some of them prisoners. And these guards proceeded to do really awful things to the prisoners based on the commands that they were receiving from kind of the higher up. So the Milgram experiments, even worse, there was someone with a kind of a clicker in their hand and someone telling them. I think the gist of it was, if this individual gets the answer wrong, you can give them a shock. And if they continue to get the answers wrong, give them more shock shocks. And the person on the other side of the screen was like screaming in agony and the high status individual was still telling them, no, they got the wrong answer. You got to give him more voltage. And just over and over and over. So we’ve seen it nurses, nurses, because they say, oh, it’s a physician, I’m getting a physician order. I must do I must carry out the physician order. I mean, it’s happened time and time and time again where we see these things occurring with someone that’s perceived to be someone in a high status position, I’m giving a command to do something at high status. Right. It’s it’s what’s your perception of who that individual is? It could be someone in a uniform. An officer could be like a physician to a nurse is a high status relationship. So I’m really charismatic. This is why charisma and leadership has never been or has been really sized, because people in very charismatic leaders tend to create their own cult of personality and very easy for them to manipulate people in their. Teams or team members. Nicole To manipulate those individuals.

Gina [00:51:42] Charismatic leader she said I.

Nicola [00:51:44] Love me and Colts. Dr. Lord has confirmed my cult isms for me. Thank you.

Danielle [00:51:52] Yeah. Yeah.

Gina [00:51:53] Okay, so before we wrap up, can can you tell us and our listeners where we can find you? What are you doing today? What is your mission in life now that you know, now that you’re on the other side? Give us a little synopsis there.

Danielle [00:52:08] About a year ago, I went out on my own and have my own small business. I don’t know what to call myself quite yet. I’m not quite a consultant because there’s some not necessarily great images that get conjured up with consultants, not as a little.

Gina [00:52:24] Movie all the time. Call the consultant and the like. Preview. I feel like Nicole and I should like have a watch party on it.

Nicola [00:52:32] Because it can then be an entire episode.

Gina [00:52:35] Yeah, because.

Nicola [00:52:36] The consultant is an American black comedy thriller television series created by Tony. Based on the novel of the same name by Bentley Little and starring Christopher Waltz as the.

Gina [00:52:47] That’s who it is, Christopher Tiger.

Nicola [00:52:50] Tiger. Anyway, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The series follows the. Oh, no. No, This is like an entire episode. The this series follows the employees of a mobile gaming company whose leadership is taken over by a sinister consultant played by what’s Bom bom bom.

Gina [00:53:14] Is there anymore.

Nicola [00:53:16] It premiered on Amazon Prime or whatever.

Gina [00:53:18] So basically you see clips of this, the employees being like, does he even work here?

Nicola [00:53:24] So do you think it was one of the big for that sentiment? Because I could believe that’s.

Gina [00:53:29] I don’t think it matters. I feel like we need to watch it and then like review it episode by episode. Yeah. Anyway, Danielle, we went way off course.

Nicola [00:53:39] And.

Danielle [00:53:40] That’s okay. It’s one more reason why I don’t want to call myself a consultant.

Gina [00:53:44] Right? That was the point. I was like, Oh yeah, no.

Danielle [00:53:48] I bet. So yes, I am out on my own. Providing organizational development and leadership development to all businesses is what I like to say. Really helping leaders understand and the value of team members and that there is a better way. We don’t have to. If you as organizational owners don’t have to be frustrated, your employees don’t have to be stressed or working in fear, we can do something different. So I offer a variety of services. I won’t go down the rabbit hole as to what I can do, but you can find my work if you’re interested at Archetype Learning Solutions, and that’s the name of my website. So as individuals we are all archetypes, we have our own needs and we have our own city that we should be able to bring into the workplace. And so that’s how you can find me. Danielle at Archetype Learning Solutions dot com is my email address. Yeah, I just I love doing what I do. I’m very passionate about it. And like I like I said before, we can do better.

Gina [00:54:45] We can do I think everyone has a part to play in every situation and in every toxic workplace. And 100%, I think everyone can do better. I agree with that. All right. So, Danielle, thank you so much. It’s been a very interesting conversation and thank you.

Danielle [00:55:02] All right. Well, thank you so much. Really enjoyed it. And yeah, anytime. Reach out.

Nicola [00:55:08] Thank you. We will do. Thank you.

Danielle [00:55:10] So much.

Nicola [00:55:10] Thank you. Thank you for joining us today. If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you.

Gina [00:55:18] Also, leaving a review helps us create more content because it shows us there is an interest in this topic.

Nicola [00:55:24] For those of our listeners who do better with reading, we have closed captioning available on YouTube.

Gina [00:55:29] Next week, same time, same place.

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