It was an absolute pleasure to be invited by Mark Cole to speak an NHS London Leadership Academy event last week, on the theme of "How Hostile Are Our Working Environments?”
At the event, I shared findings from a blog I recently published, entitled "How to tackle toxic work environments".
The day was thought provoking, powerful and provided lots of questions and statements for reflection.
During the session, I made some notes to share with you. I hope these take away points motivate you to reflect on how you show up at work, how you treat others and how you are supporting the culture of your organisation positively or negatively, especially if you feel you work in a hostile environment.
My 22 takeaways from a fascinating day:
A hostile work environment is one where a person’s behaviour in the workplace creates an environment that is difficult for another person to work in.
The effects of working in a hostile environment can last a lifetime. Yes,you may have left the organisation, but out of sight does not mean out of mind.
We are all human and should be treated that way, regardless of where we are in the hierarchy.
Do not underestimate the power of a frown! Regardless of our intent, our body language, facial expressions, how we enter a room and the way we approach people can be perceived in a negative way. We do not necessarily need to change our language but we need to be self-aware.
Simply saying "hello", smiling or saying "sorry" can make somebody's day.
Whether you are a permanent employee or an interim project manager who is coming in to deliver a project, a toxic or hostile working environment touches everybody.
If we’re inside a hostile working environment, we are part of it whether we like it or not. When we say nothing we are complicit in others’ actions.
Poor performance management, abuse of power and high levels of anxiety can all contribute to a hostile environment.
Hold dear your values and integrity and don’t let any amount of money compromise them.
Nothing is more important than our health and our loved ones. When we choose to stay in a hostile environment, we put these at risk
Ask yourself what stories you are bringing into the room, which may be completely unrelated to the organisation and our colleagues? Again we need to be more self-aware.
If we only look for the negative, we shouldn’t be surprised if that is all we see.
Speaking up and voicing opinions is a muscle that needs to be flexed, but we can start small.
Speaking up is easier to when we have the support of others.
Regardless of your title and position, leadership is about understanding change and being willing to intervene.
Change starts with me.
One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
We need to ask: what are we tolerating turning a blind eye to?
Change requires conviction, will, execution and an acceptance of the consequences of our actions. Change also requires courage and risk taking.
How do you turn up authentically when you receive subtle and continuous messages to conform to the norm?
We need to look at what we are hiding bind: our title, our professional status, the need to belong, silence, the need to be safe, emails, processes or fear. How does this negatively present itself?
A polarity is an interdependent pair of values or perspectives at tension with each other. Neither can reach a goal on it’s own. For example:
Clinical vs. non clinical
Central delivery vs. local delivery
Interim vs. permanent positions
Too much of one or the other tips the balance. The goal is to manage the best of both worlds.
There is so much to think about when it comes to tackling hostile working environments, but what this event really highlighted to me is how we all have a role to play in making change and improvement happen.
Tara Humphrey is the founder of THC Primary Care, a leading healthcare consultancy specialising in workforce transformation and the only consultancy to have worked with 11 Training Hubs across South London, Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
Tara and her team also work with GP federations supporting the implementation of clinical services.
Tara has over 20 years of project management and business development experience across the private and public sector and has an MBA in Leadership and Management in Healthcare, is published in the London Journal of Primary Care and is the author of over 150 blogs articles. She presents her own podcast: The Business of Healthcare With Tara Humphrey.