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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Rising Above a Toxic Workplace" (Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra)

TITLE: Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment
AUTHOR: Gary Chapman, Paul White, and Harold Myra
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 2014, (160 pages).

Ever encountered the boss from hell? What about irritating colleagues who absolutely ruin our day? Maybe, there is a negativity so heavy that going to the workplace no longer seems fun or exciting anymore. The fact is, there are many places that have a toxic environment that can discourage and turn off ordinary workers from discharging their best. According to a Gallup poll, seven in ten people work in toxic workplaces. A bad workplace also leads to stress and reduced productivity. Class tensions create divisions within organizations.

Then there is the toxic boss from hell. They cannot take no for an answer. Not only that, they can make life miserable for subordinates who are desperate to keep their job. Some bosses are so abusive that standing up to them may very well be worse off. Greed and envy are the toxic fumes in any workplace. Even those companies that shot to fame based on their ranking in "Best companies to work for" are not immune from toxic workplaces. For what is wonderful for now is no guarantee of the future.

Each chapter contains some survival strategies for workers as well as leadership tips for bosses. Both are needed in order to cultivate a positive corporate culture. The curious question is that with the massive amount of resources and self-help materials flooding the market, why are so many workplaces so toxic? The authors include a chapter on nonprofits and churches which may very well be more complicated than a business. For one, the motivation to work is different. However, toxic environments also exist in such places. Problems like:
  • The means (code) justifying the ends (the cause)
  • egocentric and narcissistic leaders
  • Lack of constructive or encouraging feedback
  • Dishonesty
  • Dysfunctional structures and relationships
  • Lack of focus and understanding of the mission
For all organizations, there is a common toxin: words that hurt. The authors call this "little murders." One careless word can lead to a ferocious firestorm. Thankfully, all is not lost. According to he authors, there is hope through better communications. We do not need to be victims constantly living like rabbits in the freeway. One can indeed "rise above a toxic workplace." One solution: Adopt the five languages of appreciation. Another solution is about managing our expectations and stress levels. For it is not the stress but how we react to stress. It is also about recognizing the potential of any place that can go downhill very quickly. Past successes are no guarantee of any future equivalent. Be careful not to simply go through the motions in any appreciation exercise. Only genuine and authentic appreciation can motivate well.

Many people will identify with the challenges of the workplaces as depicted in this book. From healthcare to technology firms, financial firms to educational institutions, from profits to nonprofits, as long as there are people, there will be a potential for toxic culture. This is not because of the work per se. It is the result of a fallen world. What makes this book captivating are the real life stories the authors have compiled to show us that the toxic workplace is closer to us than we think. We can make a difference in three ways:
  • Self-care
  • Be aware of the culture and the environment
  • Be constantly communicating with wisdom and discernment
Not all workplaces are for us at all times. People working perpetually in one place will be increasingly few and far between. We change job environments more and more frequently. Surviving is not enough. We need to thrive. Thriving may not be enough. We need to help others survive. Until the day arrives when the time is up, we ought to graciously quit to look for another place to work. Until then, perhaps, reading this book can help us thrive, not just survive the boss from hell!

By the way, this book is like a typical fireworks display. The finale must not be missed for the last chapter is crammed with amazing strategies and tips on how to rise about a toxic workplace. 

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Moody Publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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