We’ve all been there. We’ve all had a job that either kept us so busy that we didn’t know how to keep up or we just felt like we couldn’t handle being there one more minute, let alone one more day. So, how do we cope? Most of us would say by complaining, right? The Cut ran an article on April 22, 2019 discussing how complaining turns co-workers into friends.
I think most of us can relate to this since we’ve had at least one job in our careers that we didn’t love or wasn’t the right fit. Let’s take a look at why this is important and how it’s also a sign of something much bigger.
Forming Friendships in the Workplace
Forming bonds is healthy and a not only a necessary part of maintaining a healthy work-life balance, but it can also become a coping a mechanism. When we are carefully forming those bonds around those that we work with and getting to know each other, what we are really doing is evaluating each other and our values to see if we trust each other enough to share those complaints. Once we do, then it becomes a close friendship because there is a deep level of trust.
Complaining has been said to be a good way to develop friendships in the workplace. Using work-related complaints to acquire those friendships also can feel less risky than discussing personal topics to get to know our fellow co-workers.
However, what don’t we know about forming friendships in the workplace? Is there more than what meets the eye?
Complaining spreads like wildfire and can infect teams and a workplace. It can keep morale down and keep even the best employees from being productive.
According to the Harvard Business Journal, corporate culture is a powerful driver of human thought and behavior. It tells us what is revered and profane, what is right and wrong, good and bad. Corporate culture is what keeps us in line and ensures that we say, think, and do the right thing. “Right” is defined by our tribe, which is oftentimes our organizations. However, what happens when our tribe- and our organization are toxic?
Learning to Recognize A Toxic Work Culture
The problem with getting to know someone in this way- by complaining- is that we are not fully getting to know them. So, how do we know if someone is a toxic employee?
Start by looking for the “dark triad”. Those with the tendency to exhibit one set of specific traits, which are known as the dark triad, oftentimes tend to be toxic employees or leaders.
- Narcissism is the first one within this triad. It is defined as having an extreme interest or admiration in one’s self. Narcissistic people have trouble connecting to organizational values and accepting a team-focused mindset because they are absorbed solely on their own needs and ambitions.
- Machiavellianism is the second one. This is the megalomaniac and ethically ambiguous mindset who typically keep valuable information to themselves that could benefit others in the organization, pit different groups against each other, and make a group of friends while excluding others from their social circle.
- Psychopathy is the last within the triad. This is an inability to appropriately deal with negative emotions and impulses.
Some additional signs of a toxic employee include:
- An individual who has been moved around a lot within the company, teams, divisions, etc.
- Hypercompetitive employees who step over each other to pursue their goals.
- Individuals who blame others for issues and problems, that they in fact, caused themselves.
- Individuals who are overly critical of their peers, subordinates, managers, or leadership.
- An individual who hordes information and doesn’t act with full transparency or integrity.
What Happens If Your “Friend” is Toxic?
- Take care of yourself first. You know that old saying “put your oxygen mask on first”? It absolutely applies here. What do you need to be happy, productive, and effective to thrive in your career? It’s not just about survival and dealing with the toxic co-workers; think of how you can thrive in your career.
- Repair Relationships. A toxic work culture can drive to behave in ways that we may not have ever imagined. We can harm relationships inside and outside the workplace. Repair them- and then begin to take responsibility by your own actions and attitudes and hold yourself accountable. It’s easy to be the individual who always complains and criticizes but it’s not easy to be the person who expects more and drives for something exceptional.
- Form an alliance. The important part is to keep this going and to make lasting changes. Plan some meetings with your co-workers, your manager, and/ or boss and keep the lines of communication open and discussion going. Take purposeful steps to articulate shared values as well as collective rules of engagement to guide everyone’s behavior.
Instituting a new culture doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it can take some time because it requires changes in behavior. Remember, the next time you sit down with your co-worker to complain and criticize that it could have powerful consequences and negatively impacting those around you more than you may realize.