Brave Leaders Banish Toxic Passive Aggressive Workplace Culture

TRUST MATTERS

Brave Leaders Banish Toxic Passive Aggressive Workplace Culture

Psychologist Hetal Doshi talks about how the issue of trust in the workplace can make or break an organisation's culture.

The success of an organisation depends on its ability to adapt. So, change or transformation - the corporate watchword these days - is inevitable in order for businesses to grow continuously.

But what kind of change is suited to an organisation? More importantly, as a leader, how do you bring everyone on board?

One of the negative but natural outcomes arising from change is fear -  fear of having to do things in a new way, or fear of having one’s job eliminated or reduced. This fear, if not managed at the top level, will eventually drive a divide within an organisation, says organisational psychologist Hetal Doshi.

There is this notion of You versus Me. So, when you have You versus Me, you cannot have We. 

“There is this notion of You versus Me. So, when you have You versus Me, you cannot have We,” says Doshi, referring to the organisation. “And that becomes a problem if it is not addressed.”

Doshi, founder of O Psych, a psychology-based people performance solutions company, has worked with many Fortune 500 companies for over a decade now, helping organisations identify strategies to transform and push performance of its talents.

The Singaporean, who now calls Kuala Lumpur as home, explains that Me-centered or I-centered workplaces are often characterised by cultures that are high on fear and lack of trust among leaders and employees.

In Malaysia, she says the situation is exacerbated by a passive aggressive culture.

“The thing about Malaysia is that, you don’t only have You versus Me (culture), you have an overarching culture of passive aggression.”

“Which means, we will not say it out necessarily, but we will do a lot of things to create sabotage behind your back; either through resistance, or sabotage or through alliances by making a pact of leaving together. It could be many things.”

“So, on one hand, people can be vocal but typically, they like to do it in a safe space because courage is not something that is promoted valuably as a culture in Malaysia. So the question is, what happens then?” asks Doshi.

She says leaders must fall back on the fundamentals of building trusts in order to have an engaged and productive workforce.

“The fundamental of any human relationship is trust. If that doesn’t exists, it is a completely fake relationship that can be easily broken or manipulated,” says Doshi.

“I think most business leaders, those right at the top, may be able to do that because they often have a pure intention for the organisation, or a certain higher order of purpose that is beyond just (working for) the organisation. 

“However, when it gets cascaded down, once you start breaking it down, everyone wants to look after themselves.”

The way to go about building trusts, a prerequisite to nurturing loyalty, says Doshi, is a three step process.

It begins with clarity. For organisations undergoing change, leaders must be able communicate effectively on the objectives of the change and how it will bring about benefits to the employees. 

“They must make the facts very simple, layman way of saying - why we are doing it, and we come with a certain intent.”

Creating a work environment in which employees feel as if they have the power to be part of the change can be very positive too, she adds.

“So, talk to them in a logical way first and then win them their hearts over by saying, ‘Isn’t this what we all aspire actually?’, ‘How do we all come together?’, ‘What do I need to do for you, what do you need to do for me?’, ‘Are you interested in having a real relationship over here?’. So, it really is about having a heart to heart.” 

“So opening up the mind. Then, opening up the heart. The last part is really interesting, that is the opening of the gut - which leads to ‘I trust you’. What it means is that now you can say anything, can do anything; I just close my eyes and I follow you,” says Doshi.

Ultimately, leaders who inspire trusts garner better output, morale, and loyalty from employees.

Here, she explains how the scientific approach can help employees see past ‘threats’ at work and move into a more collaborative space.

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