Ethical managers can curb toxic workplace behavior
- Researchers found that managers can employ certain behaviors to rein in undesirable employee behavior — like criticizing, belittling and otherwise mistreating co-workers — that creates a toxic work environment, according to a statement from San Diego State University (SDSU). Researchers Gabi Eissa, SDSU, and Rebecca Wyland, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, polled 156 employees who worked at least 20 hours a week for the study.
- Their research showed that conflicts between home and work responsibilities stress out employees, who often react by lashing out at co-workers in ways that harm their reputations. However, managers who demonstrate ethical leadership can prevent this behavior with two-way communication, positive reinforcement and emotional support, the researchers said.
- "We define 'ethical leadership' as supervisors who demonstrate appropriate work conduct through their personal actions and those who engage employees by discussing their work-related worries and emotions," Eissa said. "Ethical leaders want to help employees respond positively to negative situations and they try to offer resources to help employees who may find themselves hitting a rough patch."
When managers aren't properly equipped for their roles, the workplace can suffer. And research shows such unpreparedness may be a systemic problem. Managers in a 2018 West Monroe Partners study said they don't have enough training to do their jobs well or do them at all. As many as 59% said they had no training at all, and 44% also reported feeling overwhelmed.
Conflict management has topped the list in-demand soft skills for workers, as managers are expected to be skilled in defusing workplace discord and stress. The SDSU study may demonstrate how managers — with the right training — can turn a toxic work environment around and contribute to a culture that engages and retains employees.
But HR also may need to ensure managers aren't spending an inordinate amount of time settling employee conflicts. For example, CFOs in a 2017 survey said they spent on average 15% of their time, or six hours per week, managing staff conflicts. To assist managers in encouraging collaboration and cooperation among workers, HR leaders may devise a plan to create a culture of learning within their organizations that not only helps workers attain the skills they need, but also gives managers the tools they need to lead effectively.