3 Tips To Handle Toxic Environments That Impede Inclusive Growth And Leadership Success


Elevated expectations based on the changing workplace call for more from today’s leaders. Some will rise to the occasion, and others will not. As a result, toxicity remains challenging in the workplace regardless of the strides and commitments to create inclusive environments. An article by Puneet Sandhu in The Muse says toxic environments lack trust, support, boundaries, and more. Following along with those ideas, leaders must be vigilant and ready to address behaviors that impede inclusive progress and get immersed in finding solutions to these continuing challenges. But how?

Acknowledge Barriers To Believing Toxicity Exists

Some leaders need help to believe and affirm toxicity exists in organizations and amongst leadership teams. As such, the following explanations contribute to the challenge of normalizing that toxicity continues to rare its ugly head despite best efforts.

  1. An organization may have made sizable investments in creating an inclusive and equitable culture. As such, defense mechanisms trigger pushback on allegations citing allowance of toxic behaviors.
  2. Industry or reputable diversity award recognition for excellence can paint a picture that toxic behaviors don’t exist or thrive in an organization. There are always examples of organizations that have an A rating, humbled by non-inclusive actions made public.
  3. Blindspots about inclusive leadership capabilities can also interfere with receptivity to potentially negative feedback about progress, empathy, and actions. As a result, a leader can demonstrate non-inclusive behaviors despite unconscious bias or other diversity training.

Inclusive Leaders will constantly dance with discomfort in service of courageous conversations that, when digested and processed, lead to transformative growth for the leader and the organization.

Course Correct Evidence That Denotes Misalignment With Organization Values

Mission, vision, and values are vital fundamentals for organizational success. In the Harvard Business Review, John Coleman’s article, It’s Time to Take a Fresh Look at Your Company’s Values, says there must be a constant refresher of what an organization stands for to meet the changing times. When toxic weeds exist, it’s essential to take action to root out issues swiftly. Clear and transparent communications are necessary, even acknowledging fundamental changes/improvements to the organization’s values. Inclusive Leaders can lead the way by accepting responsibility for projects such as these and ensuring accountability is present and visible. The next time there is commentary from stakeholders that endanger inclusion, pause to allow time to course correct and uphold committed organization values.

Upgrade Leadership Skills

It is necessary to pause and evaluate the current leadership skillset. What are the opportunity areas for growth? No matter the level, leveraging a 360 feedback reporting tool can provide insightful data points supporting evaluations and action plans. Face-to-face conversations can add supplemental context if conducted in a trusted setting with clear steps for delivering, receiving, and responding to feedback. As a best practice, inclusive leaders commit to continuously upgrading leadership skills with ongoing training that includes coaching, mentoring, and sponsorship. Proactively working with a coach to supplement growth as an inclusive leader is prudent. Equally efficient strategies include the diversification of avenues explored and utilized to bolster leadership capabilities.

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