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Toxic Work Culture Series: Leaders Have Options-Status Quo

CPR Toxic Work Culture series continues with the leader's decision when a toxic work culture is identified. As a research practitioner with expertise in organizational culture, I've learned to apply direct and indirect observation during my initial organization assessment. During the initial observation, you can see the personality within an organization, whether it may be creative, bureaucratic, positive, toxic, or other. According to renowned researcher Edgar Scheine (1952), a leader must decide what to do when a harmful or toxic culture is identified. The leader may elect to (1) maintain the status quo (business as usual) and ignore all the signs while doing absolutely nothing, (2) eliminate all of the top executives and influencers within the organization to set an example, or (3) evolve the culture, this means using a critical eye to identify the issue and working with a consultant to eliminate the problem. This week, CPR will scrutinize all three options of a leader, starting with keeping the status quo. Let's proceed.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the status quo as the existing state of affairs, specifically, the last actual and uncontested state that preceded a controversy and is to be preserved. Some key terms in this definition include the existing state of affairs and preserving what is within the organization; as a leader, whether a small business owner, entrepreneur, or executive in Corporate, you must take the time to examine your organization's culture when assuming the role of the head person in charge. If you are a new leader, this may take about six months to one year to identify your culture; if you've worked your way up throughout the years, your view as a leader, as opposed to your former positions, takes on a 360 approach, resulting in reexamining the biases you once held. Nonetheless, if an issue is identified, you can opt to maintain the status quo and not create waves, or you can elect to lead, manage, and improve your organization. It starts with accepting the challenge of not maintaining the status quo or what CPR refers to as mediocrity management.

While understanding the organization's status quo is essential, maintaining the status quo is neither beneficial financially nor professionally. CPR recommends upon careful observation; a leader must challenge the status quo. Challenging the status quo for leaders of a company means providing alternative ideas for ways the company operates. While a challenge may sometimes mean identifying a solution, it may also mean detecting an opportunity the company could take to improve its processes. This can be easily identified by deploying a S.W.O.T analysis. Another way to challenge the status quo is by changing a toxic work culture or improving current work incentives for the existing culture. An example is maybe allowing 50% of staff to telecommute or 100% pending on your business. As a leader, some essential tips

for challenging the status quo include:

  1. Address your fears-make a list of your fears and rate how likely they are to come true. Listing your fears provides perspective and assists you in confidently presenting your ideas.

  2. Maintain a positive attitude-A positive attitude can help you project confidence in your ideas and address any issues with a constructive perspective.

  3. Do research-identify data that support your idea, conduct an internal survey to illustrate your idea or both. Frame your idea that demonstrates a win-win for the organization and your employees. Your employees need to know what's in it for them.

In business, the only constant thing is change. To adapt, you must adorn the adaptive leadership style hat to navigate your terrain. While doing nothing is a valid option, assuming a leadership role is an opportunity to make a difference. Please don't blow it. Seize the day and lead to improving your organization's culture by not settling for the status quo.

Warm Regards,


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