Surprising Upsides of COVID and Your Work-Place

leadership development | leadership coach | Seattle

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Some of you have enjoyed upsides to COVID and work, an improvement beyond your wildest dreams.

Before COVID, you worked in a highly toxic environment, executed and enforced by your tyrannical bully-manager/boss. As you drove closer to work, your stress grows. You may feel stomach pain, sweaty palms, a dry mouth, and any number of symptoms. Long term exposure to this stress can cause damage to your health, mental well-being, and self-esteem. 

As a leadership development, I’ve worked with many clients with toxic managers, and know this landscape well. All names in this article are clients and have been changed to protect privacy, but the stories are true. 

Toxic environments are spearheaded by a manager who methodically creates and actively role-models bullying behaviors. Here are a few examples-

  1. Sabotage- ‘Don’t worry about presenting on Monday.’ Monday comes, and he says, ‘where’s your presentation?’
  2. Roadblocks- You can’t move forward without access to multiple systems. Your teammates block all access. It takes weeks, again and again. 
  3. Humiliation- In front of the team, knowing full well the roadblocks that stopped your progress, your manager asks, ‘Why haven’t you finished your work?! You’re a Senior Analyst, and I thought you were better!’
  4. Ostracize- You’re an outsider, and team members avoid you. 
  5. Threats- ‘If you don’t start completing your work, you’ll need to resign!’ 

 Your team follows the manager’s examples, and in an attempt to curry favor, they ostracize, humiliate, and implement roadblocks towards ‘the target.’  

Here are three potentially transformational changes that may surprise you. 

1. Physical distance - breathing room

This isn’t a surprise, but it is a reprieve.

It’s so much more than avoiding that annoying commute, and wearing a button-down on top, while secretly enjoying your pajama bottoms and fuzzy slippers. You now have physical space and breathing room. You’re in the wonderfully safe area that is your home, and away from the office’s thick atmosphere, laden with tension and dread.

Yes, toxic behaviors can still occur virtually but lessened with distance.

‘Christy’s,’ stomach ached every time her manager was in the office, or they’d have a meeting together. The physical symptoms of exposure to this prolonged stress caused her to have recurrent vertigo.

As soon as she began working from home, all tension stopped. She no longer had stomach aches, and vertigo started happening far less frequently.

Her toxic manager held his position for 25+ years, even with high employee turnover and multiple HR complaints.

He’s finally been fired. Why now?

2. Greater transparency and accountability

This sounds counter-intuitive.

Remote work requires greater use of collaboration tools such as Slack, and now you have a communication and delegation ‘paper-trail.’ It’s not perfect, as phone calls can still be cloaked in secrecy, but it’s an improvement.

 ‘John’ is a highly skilled and seasoned professional, who’d always worked in high-functioning teams. He took a new position, and experienced for the first time, a toxic manager. Working from home was a welcome reprieve, and the bad behaviors lessened. Most notably, roadblocks improved due to transparency. One team member, in particular, always blocked information and access, causing John project delays. Every-time he had a request; he’d post it on the group channel. When ignored, he’d request it again. Now, instead of waiting weeks, the response came the same day. 

John’s manager held her position for over seven years, and she also had multiple HR complaints and high turnover. 

She’s finally been fired. Why now? 

3. Are toxic managers getting 'the boot?'

Three of my client’s toxic managers have been fired. Data on this time in the pandemic won’t be available for years.  

This we know as fact- Uncertainty reigns In this time of a global pandemic, pending election, and a looming recession. 

Toxic managers are costly. According to a recent study by the Society for Human Resource Management, The High Cost of Toxic Workplace Culture, shows 58% of employees quit because of their managers. The turnover cost U.S. employers more than $223 billion over the past five years. These same managers are under-performers with high inefficiencies and delays, and low-quality work-product. 

Why would any company keep them? Perhaps it is complacency, lack of transparency, or complicity. Whatever the reason, could this be changing? 

These clients are in the technical sect. While technical jobs appear relatively stable with AppleAmazon, and Microsoft, each listing 2,000 job openings, others are in declines, such as Google and Facebook, according to CNET. We don’t yet know if demand will remain stable.

Companies may no longer be willing to take unnecessary risks in times of considerable uncertainty and keep low-performing managers. It’s about time! 

Since we won’t have data for years to come, I ask you-

  • Are you in a toxic work environment?
  • What changes have you experienced working from home? 
  • Has your toxic manager been fired? 

I’d love to hear from you! 

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