New research on toxic workplaces, conducted by Fierce Conversations, shows that disruptive employees continues to have a major impact on organisations of all sizes and across all types of industries. 

The study shows that an extraordinary 44% of those surveyed simply ignore employees who exhibit negative or manipulative behaviour in the workplace, and that confronting these harmful behaviours is not the obvious first choice. Stacey Engels, President of Fierce Conversations writes, “The fact that confronting problematic employees directly is people’s third choice of action should be concerning to all organisational leaders. The amount of time and energy that can be saved by providing employees the skills and empowerment to address issues head-on, before they become larger issues, is critical.” 

We all know the challenges of giving people open and constructive feedback about their behaviour, especially if they feel criticised or attacked. And while it is often perceived to be the task of leaders to deal with these issues, leaders alone cannot fix them. Everyone needs to develop effective strategies to deal with problematic colleagues. Again, Stacey Engels. ‘’By equipping employees with the skills to address the issues themselves first, many issues can be resolved quickly and efficiently, before they become even greater concerns.” 

As an internationally recognised training concept, Fierce Conversations has long advocated the need for transparent, regular and positive feedback in the workplace. To help us achieve this, Fierce advocates 4 core objectives that we can use to build a more collaborative communication culture.

As individuals, we need to understand that we do not own the truth. In fact, we are competing with multiple realities and perspectives around us all of the time. Every time we talk to other people, we need to stay open, in a constant mode of inquiry, committed to listening. Reflection: Is your organisation allowing your employees to challenge decisions and leadership  If not, you may be setting a trend that results in a loss of innovation.

We should always walk away from a conversation with something new, or having offered something new to the other person. Reflection: Do you cultivate a culture of learning or of expertise around you at work?

The conversations an organisation is not having are the ones that are often the most costly. Burying or ignoring problems will only guarantee the outcome we are trying to avoid. Reflection: As an organisation, are employees free to discuss concerns, what Amy Edmondson calls psychological safety, about what is problematic? 

It’s all about people. That means we need to ensure that every conversation is designed to foster relationships as the foundation of efficient collaboration. Reflection: Is your organisation “living“ this core people principle, or does your workplace culture focus on tasks and results at the expense of relationships?

The rewards in having effective conversations are obvious: less stress, improved job satisfaction and, ultimately, higher performance. Having conversations based on Fierce’s 4 objectives can help you to improve your communication and achieve better results. Can we afford not to?