Everyone knows the stereotypes– often heard when employees have an opportunity to complain. Meetings with groups of employees often end up as complaint sessions: The boss is both too distant and is a micromanager. Or there is a team bully, or a whiner, or a free rider. Or there’s the guy who steals your ideas or the woman who gossips behind your behind your back. Then there is the disappearing lunch or pen kleptomanic. From the seemingly insignificant to serious workplace menace, all of these stereotypes and many others are out there in every American workplace…
Or are they?
While it is one thing to complain, it is another to assume that negative behavior in the workplace is somehow “normal,” and therefore must be tolerated. Whether you are a manager or an employee, there are effective strategies for dealing with personnel problems before they become pathological.
It is not enough to recognize the behavior or even to try to understand it. It is important that we all develop strategies for changing the problematic behavior. I have three favorite resources that I consult when trying to deal with a behavior pattern that raises this kind of complaint.
The first is a wonderful personnel handbook called Toxic Coworkers: How to Deal with Dysfunctional People on the Job by Alan A. Cavaiola and Neil J. Lavender (2000). What I like about this one is that it identifies the various “toxicities” that might be in the workplace and then suggests strategies for dealing with them, depending on whether the individual is a co-worker, subordinate, or your boss!
From the world of government comes this short article by John W. Myrna discussing the various types sitting around the table—and strategies for dealing with them. The article, “The 8 Worst Behavioral Archetypes on Executive Teams” is from Government Executive, October 6 2014 ( http://ow.ly/Jxksp) There are some excellent insights here, whether you work in government, the non-profit world, or business.
Finally, I would add C. K. Gunsalus’ excellent The College Administrator’s Survival Guide (2006). This funny, insightful and powerful book crosses over easily into today’s bureaucratic work environments, and again, Gunsalus writes about solutions, not just problems.
The moral of the story is, whether you are the boss or not, you can provide the antidote to the poison that makes a toxic work environment.