Toxic Rock Stars

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“Research has shown that toxic cultures cost U.S. companies almost $50 billion per year, and toxic culture was the single biggest predictor of attrition during the first six months of the Great Resignation.” Purushothaman and Stromberg.

Yes, toxic rock stars can deliver today but one cannot ignore the long-term impact of these culture bullies on team dysfunction, attrition, employee engagement, productivity, and employer branding.

Here are five steps leaders can take to ensure high-performing bullies don’t drive away their best employees:

No-tolerance policy.

If a leader at your company is reported once, investigate. Coaching or extended training may be appropriate if the person simply didn’t understand how their actions were harming others. But second, third, and fourth reports with no action send the message to all employees that bad behaviour can be trumped by other factors. Companies have to take decisive action and if required, terminate people who create toxic environments.

Take An Honest Look at your Culture

What are you tolerating?

Take a good look at your company culture. Do an honest culture survey, conduct focus groups, and have one-on-one conversations with employees at various levels. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn.

Get engaged by truly listening to your employees. Conduct a thorough employee experience assessment, and meet one-on-one with your diverse talent to understand what they need to do their best work. Throughout the process, be humble. Set the tone for the kind of culture you want to foster.

Improve your feedback process.

Provide anonymous reporting opportunities. This can help employees feel confident they won’t be penalised for speaking up. Also, offering external HR support and coaching guidance can give hope to those who are already suffering from a toxic work environment.

Infuse your values everywhere in the business.

Values should be reflected in employees’ lived experiences so that the good intentions are felt and eventually eliminate distrust. This is where leaders must walk the talk.

Review values in the organisation to ensure that the core values are embedded into all aspects of the employee lifecycle, from recruiting and hiring to performance management to team interactions to goal setting and more. To understand if the values resonate include a values segment into your regular Culture survey.

Speak Up

Put some skin in the game. For example, make it clear that you will object to sexist, racist, ageist, and or harassing jokes Challenge all behaviour and discourse that is inappropriate. That is the only way we are going to see true change.

NOW Is the Time

There is a growing acceptance that we need new ways of leading. We need leaders who understand core diversity and inclusion challenges, lead with empathy, and have unique lived experiences. It’s time to get rid of toxic rock stars if you want to keep the talent you still have and attract a diverse range of candidates to help you and your company grow and thrive in today’s competitive climate.