In 2007, Robert Sutton wrote a book that discussed the impact bullying has on productivity in the workplace, and a lot has happened in the corporate world since. Titled The No Asshole Rule, I have thought about how this “policy” could extend to mean so much more and help leaders foster a successful environment in their businesses.
I’ve seen public displays of this rule play out in headlines, but often, that’s not the case. Instead, difficult situations in the workplace often happen behind the scenes, and the onus is on leadership to eradicate toxic behaviour for the sake of employees’ morale and enjoyment of their work.
I will always argue that work needs to be done in order to prevent toxic behaviour from contaminating a work environment. Below are two tangible ways to put guidelines in place to do your best to prevent toxic behaviour and toxic people from entering your workplace.
Hire for attitude and character, not only skills.
Hiring for attitude and character and not only focusing on skills can be a difficult guideline to follow. But if you can get to a place where your firm can really think about why you are hiring someone and what the role will be, I believe you will truly come out on the other side with a drastically improved company culture.
Depending on the size of your business, this might need to be implemented with your hiring firm, but overall, the mindset change will need to happen in the leaders who are bringing new people onto the team. Yes, they will likely have to spend more time on on-boarding, skill development and other training needs, but again, this is a preventative measure, so the work will need to happen before toxic behaviours can enter your office.
A fairly simple but intuitive way to search for character and attitude while hiring that has worked for me is to present them with an awkward or uncomfortable situation during the interview. Then, ask how they would react in a professional setting. Also, I like to throw around different discussion topics in the midst of the more standard interview questions just to get a better sense of the candidate’s personality.
It’s important to understand that the new hire can learn the skills and other needed processes as they settle into their role. What you’ll likely find is that the time and effort needed to teach that employee will decrease as time goes along. They will simply become a productive member of a well-functioning team — all because they are a good fit for the culture you’ve created. You might even see improvements in retention when hiring based on character and attitude.
Create a culture that fosters respect, kindness and diversity.
Due to the fact that the large majority of my team is composed of long-tenured team members, I truly believe that the effectiveness of leadership, as well as the ability for the company to build a positive culture, is better when people are together and share experiences. Enter 2020 and a pandemic, however, and that changes things.
Despite challenges brought on by Covid-19, the adage that employees will work harder when they are invested in the company is still so relevant today. Ask your team what they want, how they want to be treated and what motivates them. Once you have this info, you can build it into your culture, which should be as eclectic as possible.
I’ve found it’s true people tend to gravitate toward others who have similar tastes and values, but it’s also true that a successful team must be composed of people with all different skill sets and points of view. If you can achieve this in your own company, you will be on the path toward creating a great and sought-after work environment and culture.
To get started, make sure each person on your team is treated as a valuable member of the company and treats the others with respect. These are keys to ensuring you build a healthy and positive culture. You can show you value your employees by simply saying yes to personal requests, such as if someone needs to leave early or if they have an appointment in the middle of the day.
If you infect your team with a toxic member, the effects could be much more severe than just having to replace a single employee. So, keep these tips in mind to help ensure your work environment is one of positivity and respect. In turn, you’ll have a culture and company that’s ready to flourish.