I was recently in China for four days launching our Leading Out of Drama program. On the flight from Chicago to Bejing I noticed a lot of people wearing masks. In recent years, poor air quality in Beijing has closed schools and caused farmers in the region to panic over the lack of sunlight. Protective face masks have become a common day-to-day sight, helping to protect people from the toxins in the air.
Work cultures have toxins as well. Toxic habits cloud the air so people can’t see clearly through issues of accountability, and choke out morale and productivity. Here are three behavioral toxins that make it hard for people to breathe around you, and what you can do to improve the quality of your workplace environment.
Toxin #1: Giving In
Compromising to keep the peace has dangerous long-term consequences. It undermines your credibility, keeps important issues hidden, and erodes your sense of self-worth.
- Remove this toxin by sharing your feelings and asking for what you want. Doing so doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it, but it sends the message that you, your feelings, and your ideas are worthwhile.
Toxin #2: Giving Unsolicited Advice
Nothing is more cancerous to morale and self-confidence than nonconsensual helping. Just because you see a solution for someone else doesn’t mean they want your help.
- Remove this toxin by letting people know you are available as a resource if needed. If you really feel compelled to offer a suggestion, check your ego at the door and ask permission first. Let go of your need to rescue others. Focus instead on helping them find their own solutions.
Toxin #3: Giving Ultimatums
In China they call this “the final warning,” and it means you are laying down the gauntlet. Usually ultimatums involve threats and attempt to instill fear in another person to motivate behavior. Ultimatums are great if you want to be like the substitute teacher whom everybody hates.
- Remove this toxin by sharing your boundaries and principles in an assertive way, without threats. It’s OK, and possible, to remind your teammates and employees about deadlines, ask them for commitments, and enforce consequences without resorting to Orwellian tactics.
Do you want cleaner air where you work? Replace your toxic behaviors with compassionate accountability and watch people thrive!