I think we’ve all had some unfortunate experiences with employers or corporate cultures that could best be described as toxic. From the perspective of someone with an advanced degree in human behavior and social environment, here are some surefire ways I’ve witnessed that all but guarantee failure.
Never document, avoid communication and use vague demands whenever possible. This will be sure to keep everyone around you off balance and on edge, which is a fantastic way to spark conflict, dissatisfaction and failure. Or, you could try utilizing clear action statements with readily available procedures to support efficient and effective work as well as harmony between team members who are no longer lacking clear leadership and taking it out on each other. One will lead to failure, the other won’t.
Create a chaotic environment.
Spaces that are disorganized, cluttered, cramped, dismal, loud and lack creative touches are breeding grounds for tension and conflict. Make sure there is a lot of yelling, too – from casual shouts down the hallways to ask a question of a colleague, to loud exclamations of shock or dismay that announce to everyone in the building what is going on. It’s easier to succeed in spaces that respect calm, allow for comfort and reflect the expressive creativity of those who work there. Which do you want?
Being defensive is the same as pushing blame and shame onto others. These can quickly lead to disconnection and that is the perfect way to make a difficult situation worse and set everyone up to fail. Make sure to never take responsibility for things that are wrong, and always take sole credit for the work of your team members. On the other hand, acknowledging how others see and feel about situations shows a willingness to try to understand their perspective and work towards a resolution, as well as a general respect for your colleagues as worthwhile people. That’s practically the opposite of failure.
Have a judgmental approach.
Use belittling language to clearly communicate the threat of retribution for things like taking initiative and thinking outside the box. It’s a perfect way to stifle others and build low morale. Roll your eyes and employ well-timed derisive snorts to really make your disdain for those around you clear. What if you made no assumptions about someone’s ability to understand or follow through, invited collaborative efforts and avoided using language that projected guilt? Can you imagine the outcome?
Never focus on one issue.
Take phone calls, respond to texts, read email, and attend to other tasks when others are trying to communicate with you one-on-one. Further, when one issue comes up as a potential conflict, be sure to use the opportunity to air grievances about everything else you can think of. Losing sight of a key issue is a surefire way to make sure efforts to improve fail. Or, you could use positive communication skills, ask for clarification and work together to build solutions toward success.
Look for problems.
Resolutions don’t exist for every issue – remind everyone of that fact as often as you can. When people try to find answers, be a roadblock to their progress by pointing out all the ways their proposals could go wrong and why they aren’t even worth trying. This is the most effortless way to destroy brainstorming and impede solution implementation. In truth, even in the case of problems that can’t be radically fixed, they can be improved. Communicate a commitment to reaching for improvement and others will improve with you. Which do you really want?
Never look back.
Reflecting upon your role in a negative situation should be avoided at all costs if you want to fail spectacularly. Asking yourself what you may have done differently might lead to more effective strategies for future conflicts and that sounds too much like improving. Even worse, it might just lead to positive change, such as learning from our past mistakes.
OK, so no one really wants to create a workplace designed to fail, but what are you doing to make sure that doesn’t happen? I hope the twist I’ve put on this topic has sparked thoughts about improvements you can make to support achieving your goals!