How your workplace culture is being destroyed one conversation at a time

By Tulsi van de Graaff                                         

  • It’s the team leader yelling ‘are you an idiot?’
  • It’s the manager, who doesn’t check in with staff about how they’re doing and doesn’t seem interested.
  • It’s the partner in the firm not introducing the new lawyer to the team.
  • It’s the manager shouting across the partition for an answer to data that she needs and getting frustrated when she doesn’t get it immediately.
  • It’s the team going out for lunch with the chosen few, not inviting others and whispering to each other while other staff are around.
  • It’s the distressing work event that happens to a staff member, yet no manager checks how she is doing a day after, two days after, a week after or ever.
  • It’s the person who says ‘yes, but’ in most meetings, turns up late and no-one has talked to him about this.
  • It’s the team member who criticises others ‘in the nicest possible way’ and no-one has said that it makes them feel bad and no manager has called out the behaviour.
  • It’s staff becoming so disheartened by the communication of the boss that they do the bare minimum even though they used to be the ones who would turn up early, leave late and do everything enthusiastically to get the job done.
  • It’s the team that hasn’t talked about how they want to work together and irritations arise because there is a lack of clarity about their roles and expectations of each other.
  • It’s the ‘bully’ who complains about everyone else while the team complains about her and the manager tries to be ‘fair’ and in doing so causes distress to the team who are getting complaints from customers because the team is barely functioning.

These are the common themes we see and the common challenges we address and it’s costing your staff, your team, management and the organisation, time, money, well being, productivity, reputation and profit.

In the work that we do, we see again and again the need to develop leaders and staff to be able to address these kinds of issues.  It’s supporting leaders to lead bravely and with inspiration. It’s helping staff manage their own challenging emotions.  It’s developing staff so they can communicate and engage in a way that enhances connection and minimises disconnection and conflict including raising issues appropriately, actively listen with interest and empathy and expressing appreciation.

We also consistently hear people talking about the ‘soft skills’ but without doubt these are the ‘hard skills’ and the most important ones that will make all the difference to your people and your organisation.  I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t been affected by a challenging workplace conflict, a challenging person or a challenging workplace culture.  The common theme is avoidance or no or inappropriate action.  This doesn’t have to be you.  The first step is diagnosing the ‘problem’.  The next steps are developing the right skills in your leaders and then taking the steps to set values and expectations, create accountability, appreciate and praise your staff and start on the road to creating a positive workplace culture.  It’s possible.  It just takes awareness, focus and action. We’re here if you need us.

If you or your organisation needs support with any communication or conflict challenges, cultural change, leadership, staff or team development please email me at

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