Toxic Culture and Team Building in the Workplace

“Toxic culture and team building in the workplace.”

Talk about an oxymoron! They go together like “awfully pretty” or “clearly misunderstood”. The truth is that struggling to survive in a toxic work environment really is pretty awful. And that may be due, in no small part, to the fact that we’ve used the word “toxic” so much that we’re numb to it now.


Remember what the word used to mean? Poison, virulent, dangerous, destructive, malignant! Workers who contend with destructive coworkers and malignant bosses understand the word “toxic” all too well.


From the “ins”:

  • Inflexible work schedules
  • Insensitive managers
  • Insufficient benefits
  • Inadequate childcare

To the “isms”:

  •  Racism 
  • Sexism 
  • Ageism

These virulent policies and biases can infest companies and infect workers to everyone’s detriment.


Levers that trigger leavers

According to the MIT Sloan Review “…corporate culture is a much more reliable predictor of industry-adjusted attrition than how employees assess their compensation.” And 57 percent of the people who quit work in 2021 said they “felt disrespected”, according to findings from


McKinsey & Company released findings from their Race in the Workplace Survey which revealed that  “Frontline hourly employees report the lowest overall feelings of inclusion of all employees in the workforce, and differences in inclusion emerge as they climb the corporate ladder…..[and] among all frontline staff, Black workers have the largest enterprise trust deficit—defined as a gap in perception on attributes such as acceptance, fairness, and authenticity.”

But another insight from the McKinsey survey was surprising: “Asian frontline workers appear to be poised for rapid advancement. They have the highest levels of education: 21 percent have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 16 percent of White workers, 10 percent of Black workers, and 8 percent of Latino workers……[and yet] They consistently make less money than their White peers for the same job. They don’t feel supported, with more than half lacking a sponsor. And they report the highest levels of burnout among all frontline employees.”


The high cost of hate cited the following data from the Society for Human Resource Management: “Absenteeism due to anxiety, worry, stress, or frustration stemming from experiencing or witnessing unfair treatment based on race or ethnicity in the workplace may have cost U.S. businesses up to $54 billion in the past year. [and] Lost productivity was even more costly, carrying a nearly $59 billion price tag in the last year.”


Humane leadership and team building in the workplace

Here we go again: “humane leadership”—this phrase should be redundant, right? You know, like “added bonus” or “end result”. Unfortunately, it highlights the fact that there is so much inhumane leadership in workplaces across America.


Burnout, physical and emotional illness, family emergencies, and plain old family matters are facts of everyday life, but many managers are oblivious or indifferent to the burdens their employees suffer. Worse: a lot of them demand that their workers pretend they don’t exist. Talk about a “mandatory mask” policy! The end result of this kind of inhumane leadership is what we now call the “quiet quitting” of  disengaged or distraught workers.


Growth and development follow good leadership 

You’re a leader which means you’re in charge, but what does being in charge really mean?  Of what are you in charge? Profits? Bonususes? The C-Suite and its perks? Your personal status and prestige? 


More importantly: of whom are you in charge? Can you really be in charge of your company’s success [or your own] without also being in charge of your staff’s success or well being? You may never walk a mile in your employees’ shoes, but understanding where and why their feet are stuck will help you lead them and your company forward.


As their leader you can steer your team toward professional and personal success. How? By giving them permission to explore, ask questions, and then supporting them as they find their own answers. And a blunder shouldn’t become an excuse for a demotion. Humane leaders treat missteps as learning opportunities. Freedom from the fear of retribution fuels innovation in the healthiest corporate cultures.


Team building in the workplace with DiSC

The smartest way to build a team is to treat each member as an individual. Your adaptability and flexibility as a leader do not make you a doormat. They make you emotionally intelligent.


Emotions and intelligence [aka EQ] are counterintuitive to a lot of us and as a result, the more intelligent we want to appear, the more we squelch or mask our emotions. But dissociating one part of what makes you human is unintelligent, counterproductive, and toxic. 


The ability to recognize another person’s emotions without judgment and even giving them room to process what they are feeling while they are trying to do their work. This is the sign of an emotionally intelligent humane leader.


It shouldn’t be difficult for one human being to be respectful and considerate of another member of their species, but it is. Status, power, and authority create the illusion of “otherness”, hence some of us get treated like “others” which equates to our seeming “less than” and “lower than”.


DiSC personality profile training could increase your EQ as a leader and also help your staff gel as a team. That’s because DiSC dispels the myths, delusions, and illusions about people by revealing who they really are.


The four basic personality types—Dominant, Influential, Steadfast, and Conscientious—are the building blocks of our character and they underpin our behavior. In other words, they make us who we are—warts, wigs, bugs, and bags. 


It’s easier to be humane if you learn what makes one human being different from another. For example, when you understand the basic traits of a Dominant employee, those quirks that you secretly ascribed to “those people and their culture” may simply reflect the character of that single individual. 

DiSC is a non-judgmental way to rip the bandaid off and reveal the truth about yourself and your staff without the pain of overexposure, guilt, or shame. It facilitates team building in the workplace by helping each team member understand themselves better and accept their place on the team.