The Power of Ethical Culture : Championing Ethical Culture V Toxic Culture ©

Organisational Culture is the in-house shared behaviours, values, beliefs, vision, mission, and goals that exist in the every day to day running of a business or organisation. Culture is the backbone of an organisation; it steers and creates the overall workplace environment, directs the inherent employee’s connection and engagement.  The organisational powerhouse influences the culture that empowers innovation and leadership in line with the employees shared goals.

Cultural values and norms are a powerful means of stimulating innovation. Successful innovation may depend on organizational cultural norms that groups develop and the extent to which the group’s cultural orientation aligns with, and is supported by the organization’s overall orientation. (Ethem Duygulu and Emir Özeren)

How can we cultivate an Ethical Culture, a culture wherein employees are creative, safe, happy, engaged, empowered, rewarded and motivated? And how can we transform a workplace that is abusive, brutal, unsafe and psychologically violent?

Ethical Culture

An Ethical Culture is safe, respectful, diverse, inclusive and equitable. Emotional intelligent leaders, inspire, empower, respect the boundaries of safety, and model healthy interpersonal behaviours. Conscious organisations aspire to create a legacy of moral business conduct and are tuned to the importance of conscious human culture. They are committed to environmental sustainability, economic inclusion, safe workplace practice and social responsibility. The key indicators of an equitable culture are having a “speak up” culture, an ethos of collaboration and an active Power Statement of Safe Communication.  Problems are challenges which are addressed and resolved without personal trauma or injury.  There is a policy of speak up, treat the challenge, learn, transform and innovate. An empowering culture is a safe culture that offers opportunities, nurtures talent and encourages creativityIntelligence in the World of Work embraces employees’ physical, mental, spiritual, psychological, emotional safety and well-being.  An enlightened culture recognises that this results in a higher retention of qualified employees, contributes to higher profits, production, innovation and has the ability to evolve and retain global leadership in a fast changing economy. There is minimum time and financial waste/loss from employee conflict litigation. The organisation shines in its reputation of being an active just and fair leader in its successful business.  

Toxic Culture

There is much evidence of abusive cultures with historic practices of subservience, abuse, exploitation and strict cohesion.  Many traditional institutional structures are still a restricted, controlled culture that reinforce immoral behaviour and set a tone and atmosphere of coercive control, manipulation, sadistic behaviours and dark energies.  The abuse is often covert and is conducted by a group(s) who abuse(s) their position of power and authority.

For this discussion I will examine the role of an unethical manager(s),  BUT there are other forms of unethical behaviours in the workplace.

Toxic or Vulture Culture, is the abuse of Power and Authority and is a key factor in psychological harassment and violence in the workplace. An unethical manager(s), exploits the resources (inc. human) of the organisation; partakes, enables and is a bystander(s) to abusive behaviours. A callous aggressive manager(s) can destroy the heart or stunt the growth of an organisation. A toxic manager(s) is often the instigator, gatekeeper and controller of the hostile environment while often (covert, overt) attacks, ambushes, gaslights, manipulates and ostracizes those who question “the authority” or “chain of command”. An unethical manager surrounds him/herself with a close network of bystanders and enablers to reinforce his/her abusive power. He/she has little interest in the survival of a targeted employee(s). A toxic leader lacks the human skills of empathy, honesty, safe communication and is basically self-serving.  At all times, the mismanagement of the workplace is for the perpetrator(s) own gain and benefit. A perpetrator of dishonest and dehumanising behaviour leaves a legacy of atrocity and hardship. This includes stealing or taking credit for someone else’s work, self-promotion, plagiarism, nepotism, favouritism, racism, sexism, ageism, and free access to resources (overtime, benefits, salary, time in-lieu). A target will suffer huge personal losses including, health, career, financial and family stability. A toxic manager(s) motivation is greed, self-interest and he/she loves the prestige, glory, power, and personal financial gain. He/she loves to look successful which he/she gains through unethical means and usually at the expense of someone else’s survival. There is a total lack of transparency, guidelines are unclear and he/she is constantly changing the goalposts to suit their underhand plan(s).  A key indicator of a toxic culture is an atmosphere of collusion and secrecy and there is a FEAR to “speak up”. This ruthless corrupt behaviour becomes the norm in the workplace. 

Transforming Culture

Inside Google’s Culture of Success and Employee Happiness  (Neil Patel)

Human resources, or People Operations, is a science at Google. They’re always testing to find ways to optimize their people, both in terms of happiness and performance. 

Today, companies like Google and their teams are lifting the anchor of archaic oppressive cultures. Innovative companies promote and validate happy productive co-operative workplaces while they still sustain competitive advantage and retain motivated, competent talented employees. A wellbeing culture is a healthy and lucrative resource; (for the organisation and its employees) it embraces opportunities, nurtures talent, co-creates, collaborates, innovates and is an inspiration for generations to come. It retains the most talented employees in their safe “hub” and boasts of an invigorating atmosphere that propels the dance of evolution.  Safe Leadership is recognised and rewarded.

Conscious Culture

A conscious culture is an ethos of justice, empathy, fairness, equity and safe treatment.  The Power of Ethical Culture, organisational strategy and communication along with leadership innovation influences the reputation, legacy and longevity of an organisation.  Ethical Culture is exemplary when those at the top of an organisation consistently act as a model for all employees, inspiring trust and unity. Leaders’ intentions define and live ethical beliefs, accountability and co-create an imprint that is measured by its influential legacy. There is a continuous cultivation and transformation of mindsets. An authentic workplace promotes not only physical safety but understands the importance of psychological safety and emotional well-being in the workplace. There is a zero tolerance of inappropriate menacing behaviours that devalue the core moral of the organisation.  A culture of safety is a priority and unsafe behaviour is not tolerated. An atmosphere of trust that empowers leaders and employees to deliver the company’s mission, collaborate, overcome challenges and inspire innovation.  2021 is now in the full realms of global networking.  Localised faction fighters cannot be enabled to collapse innovative organisations or be permitted to desecrate non-aggressive employees’ careers and lives.

Pioneering companies lead the way proclaiming the human right to safe workplaces and inspire healthy workplace cultures.  Authentic leaders exhibit high awareness of the importance of psychological safety, trust and effective communication.  Organisations are consciously aware, actively respond and protect the most talented employees who may fall under the savage hand of perpetrators of psychological violence.  Organisations, Occupational Health and HR must now look at how they promote someone to a management position, and whether they may be a psychological risk to employee safety and wellbeing. HR is now including psychological safety as a requirement for promotion to management (Dr Timothy Clark). 

It is time ethical and enlightened leaders transform structural, institutional and systematic unjust abusive workplaces and end the inherited repeated patterns of immoral behaviour.  “Supremacy is a dangerous notion”; “redefine what it is to be a human being”. (Larry Ward 2021). Organisations need to uphold the human in humanity and put an end to workplace psychological traumatic violence, grief, unsafe practices and protect targets of abuse who have a legal right to Psychological Safety at Work. 

Companies that achieve market recognition as great innovators must also earn the reputation of being ethical employers who ensure that their employees are safe, secure and happy.  Employee talent is what makes organisations’ giant leaders in the global market today and employees must be rewarded with a culture that cares, shares and dares to be a global leader in ethical workplace behaviour. Change starts within and is a moral compass of an organisations level of ethical awareness. In order to affect change or transformation an organisation firstly needs to understand how individuals work in relation to an organisation as an entity, as a culture. An organization’s vision, perception, attitude, value and intention must include the restructuring of harmful ways.  The Power of Ethical Culture celebrates the enlightenment of human worth and invites humanity into the 21st Century.

Judy

Bibliography

Ethem Duygulu and Emir Özeren : The effects of leadership styles and organizational culture on firm’s innovativeness  (Amabile, 1996, cited by Poškien, 2006). Published 20/8/2009

Neil Patel : Inside Google’s Culture of Success and Employee Happiness. Inside Google’s Culture of Success and Employee Happiness (neilpatel.com)  Published: 11/02/2013

Dr Timothy Clark: The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation. Published 3/3 2020.

Larry Ward and Pamela Ayo Yetunde: America’s Racial Karma : An Invitation to Heal. Black & Buddhist  https://www.blackandbuddhistsummit.com/  21/2/ 2020

Simplilearn:  Top Technology Companies to Work for in 2021 Published 30/10 2020Best Technology Companies to Work for in 2021 (simplilearn.com)

Students with Disabilities in Higher Education

We are delighted to introduce a guest blog by our colleague Teresa Shiels, whose insights encourage us to think about some of the challenges faced by students with disabilities in higher education.

The environment of third level education is an important site of power that facilitates the dominance of certain groups over others through language and discourse (Freire, 2000). The focus of this blog is on the sometimes oppressive culture in the environment of higher education that often leads to the marginalization of disabled students.  Discourse is the medium through which power is exercised; it is associated with the transmission of norms, values, and beliefs, which leads to intended or unintended assumptions about members of the disabled community. Creating knowledge that is dominated by popular culture and medical discourse overemphasizes normative physical and cognitive abilities, downplaying the recognition of difference and diversity. For example, the International Symbol of Access (ISA) is signified by a picture of a wheelchair and represents the dominance of a simplistic view of access for students with disabilities, that is, physical access.  This depiction strips away the embodied experience for students whose impairments are not always visible, but still have adverse impacts, for example neuro-diverse students. This image “produces, capacitates, and debilitates disability in particular ways” (Frisch, 2013, p.135), which is often not valued within the neoliberalist higher education community.

Having a disability or “impairment, activity limitations or participation restrictions that results from the health condition or from personal, societal, or environmental factors in the individual’s life” (Falvo, 2013, p.5), makes a student more likely a target of incivility. Uncivil behaviours such as interrupting and talking over someone, use of sarcasm or demeaning tone and language, character criticisms and insults are rude and discourteous and display a lack of regard for others (Anderson and Pearson, 1999, p.457). Disabled learners are particularly vulnerable to these insulting and sometimes unconscious behaviours with the rise of performativity and competition. Given that incivility is subtle, these uncivil social interactions can create many adverse emotions. Students internalise these and can become burnt out from the stress of navigating this environment. In this context, Reeve (2006), refers to the feelings that one incorporates about themselves that hinder or prevent them from participating as fully as possible in these settings. In so doing they demonstrate the embodied experiences of students and processes of meaning making, self-image or self-understanding (Tajfel, 1979), which impact their well-being and ability to participate. Therefore, they can often fail their academic subjects; experience stress and even drop out of college consequently.

However, the creation of a more inclusive environment is possible through voice, and advocacy. Open and honest dialogue is vital for the creation of a safe and an empowering educational space for students with disabilities that facilitates participation and learning. There has been several advances within positive organisational behaviour advocating the ideas of psychological capital. This concept includes ideas of hope, optimism, self-efficacy, and resilience. Evidence shows that these attributes enhance performance, satisfaction, happiness, and organisational commitment (Youssef, Luthans and Avolio, 2007). But these ideas place too much of an emphasis on the individual rather than focusing on the environment and the organisational response. Members of the higher educational community should treat students with disabilities with care, dignity and respect that recognizes difference and their capabilities to participate within the organisation and call out destructive behaviour that aims to destroy one’s character and professional development.

Teresa Shiels

Bibliography

Andersson, L. M., & Pearson, C. M. (1999). Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace. The Academy of Management Review, 24, 452–471. doi:10.5465/AMR.1999.220213117

Falvo, D. (2013). Medical and psychosocial aspects of chronic illness and disability. Jones & Bartlett Learning

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed (30th anniv. ed.). New York: Continuum35.

Fritsch, K. (2013). The neoliberal circulation of affects: Happiness, accessibility and the capacitation of disability as wheelchair. Health, Culture and Society5(1), 135-149.

Luthans, F., Youssef, C. M., and Avolio, B. J. (2007). Psychological capital: Developing the human competitive edge.

Reeve, D. (2006). Towards a psychology of disability: The emotional effects of living in a disabling society. Disability and psychology: Critical introductions and reflections, 94-107.

Embracing change: the only real constant in life

Since March 2020 the world of work has changed considerably for me, I wager that the world of work has changed for many other people also. No longer do I navigate public transport in the morning, no longer do I communicate with colleagues or students face to face. I work now mostly in a virtual world where meetings and classes are held online. Many of us have had to battle with laptop cameras, audio settings and latest versions of Google Chrome in order for our computers to become effective communication devices.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to see how “normal” work will ever be the same again. At the start of this global crisis, it was all amusing, the idea of being at home while being at work. During breaks we could fill the washing machine, check the post, even make a meal. As time went on, the utopia of being at home while being at work faded. The lack of interaction with colleagues and not physically being in our workplaces left some of us a bit empty.

Working from home also seems to blur the lines of boundaries between work and home, and raise some potential new problems for work conflicts. Miscommunication, polarisation and difficulty with measuring productivity may be more prevalent in this new online world. There may be also other implications for workplace conflict. Conflict that occurred in the traditional sense may have changed. In the UK it is surprising to read that there was an increase of 18% in tribunals between April and June of 2020 compared with 2019. An interesting article on this from Oliver Mundy can be accessed on this following link. https://www.thehrdirector.com/what-does-the-wfh-revolution-mean-for-workplace-conflict/. This suggests that working from home is not the panacea for workplace conflict like one might have assumed.

Most of us have adapted well with working at home, we have now mastered how to be productive by understanding the virtual tools we must use, taking appropriate breaks and having a routine that includes some exercise. There are things beyond our control however. Interruptions to our work have taken on a new dimension, children bursting through our office doors with what they think is very important news, family pets jumping on to our laps or the postman calling to the front door with a parcel, all while we are on a very important conference call with our manager.

I sometimes get the feeling that technology uses us as much as we use it. That technology is infused into our everyday lives in more ways than we might imagine. I do miss interacting with colleagues face to face and for me, nothing beats the physical presence of working with a colleague in a meeting, classroom or office. For now, though many of us will have to use emojis to express our emotions and reactions online. 

When we think of the future when this declared pandemic is over, many of us wonder will the world of work ever be the same again. If you are like me, you probably have many questions. Will we all have to trudge into an office to have a simple meeting? Will all of our work be in a physical building again? It may be fair to say that there is a lot of uncertainty around the world of work going forward. But to borrow a quote from Heraclitus, “Change is the only constant in life”, so it is probably best to embrace what ever comes in the future and try and learn from it.

Patrick Bruce