Training will not Fix a Toxic Workplace

There have been times when I have entered a workplace and just felt the weight of the emotional tension. The air was so thick that it was hard to breathe despite it being a smoke free environment. When you looked around you could see the employees walking around on tip toes with their shoulders slumped over.

The first time I walked into a place and felt this, my first assumption was the leader must be a tyrant. While that is a very understandable assumption to make, after investigation I found this was not the case. Actually the manager was a nice person and very easy to get along with. While she was very nice and personable she unfortunately went out of her way to avoid conflict.

There are a few things I have learned about avoiding conflict, one is that avoiding conflict does not mean it will go away and another is that when avoided it will most likely escalate to more destructive levels.

Over time the negative behaviors that result from unresolved conflict become habitual behaviors and many of them become sub-conscious reflexes and thoughts that drive conscious actions. The pattern created just repeats and people find more and more things to create conflict over. Even things that would not create conflict in other circumstance becomes something that generates conflict.

Too far gone

When the situation progresses to this level, and many times it does, training is not going to help. Giving people knowledge about conflict and dealing with conflict at this point will do very little to modify the behaviors that have now become habit. It is so hard to change habits that billions of dollars are spent each year on medications to help people change their behaviors.

In order to help people change their behaviors you will have to implement a program that focuses on behavior modification. A behavior modification program is not conducted over a couple of hours or a couple of days. A behavior modification program is conducted over several weeks in smaller pieces. Overall these programs do not take a significant time away from work, and they actually help to regain time that was once lost to dealing with the conflict at work.

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