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Should you ignore toxic behaviour at work?

Special thanks to Michel Bienert, founder of who launched this topic on our monthly Ready Linkedin Lives.

Some people are able to turn a blind eye to ‘toxic’ behaviour in the workplace, but should you?

If you are strong enough to ignore someone’s unhelpful behaviour at work, then you are probably strong enough, to address it with the person. The other person's behaviour probably doesn’t bother you that much, so your mind and body aren't flooded with stress hormones, which would hinder you thinking clearly. This would help you remain open and objective while having that sort of conversation, and would likely increase the chances of you doing it well, and being heard by the other person.

Ignoring poor behaviour doesn’t do anyone any favours, including you.

  1. The person in question might genuinely not realise that they are causing angst to others. Haven’t we all fallen prey to tunnel vision when stressed or anxious? Talking about it with the person is a sign that you care about them and their career.

  2. Staying quiet is a silent endorsement of the behaviour, giving the mental thumbs up to others that ‘it’s the way we do things around here.' That's not cool.

  3. While it might be an irritation to some, the behaviour might have a serious impact on well-being of others, particularly if it's their boss. People remember when they were abandoned.

  4. Research has proven the financial cost of ignoring unhelpful behaviour, so the maths alone makes it a business no-brainer.

  5. While you might be admired for your ability to ignore it, you won’t be respected. And if you aren’t respected, you probably won’t be trusted beyond a level 1 trust: I trust she’ll get her work done.

If you are serious about your career or managing others, here’s why you want to have that conversation

It’s the 101 of leadership: building trust.

1. Being coherent

Do you walk the talk? Are you aligned with your personal values, and are you living them? As within, so without. People see when you are talking big while acting small. Being clear with yourself about what’s healthy behaviour at work and what isn’t, and you honouring that every day, will make you stand out. People might not know exactly what you are doing, but they will feel safe around you.

2. Acting with integrity

Integrity: To do what you said you would do, by when you said you would do it, and to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.

It’s the follow-on from being coherent. Ask yourself: If I had a conversation with this person to see if I can improve the situation, regardless of the outcome,

  • does it feel right for me and is it in line with my values?

  • Is it good for others if I do?

  • Is this how I want to be remembered?

3. Caring

Caring for people is leadership, or put another way, leadership is a people business. The more you focus on treating people as human beings rather than human resources, the more you will build trust.

By having the conversation, you are showing deep care. Care to the person whose behaviour is impacting others by investing time and attention in them. The conversation says you see them, you value them, you believe in their potential and you want them to grow.

Equally, it tells everyone else, that you care about them too. You care about the conditions people work in, you care about their mental and emotional wellbeing. Who wouldn’t want to work hard for someone who cares about this?

Trust is the currency of high-performing teams.

The quote: The Vital Organization: how to create a high performing workplace

Authors: Massimiliano Ghini and Joshua Freedman

If you want to lead, then you need to work on building trust every day. Occasionally, you’ll need to put on your big girl-boy-they pants and have a difficult conversation. And if do, people will want to be in your team, fighting alongside you.


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