If you’re looking to create a really awful work environment – one where festering emotional wounds are the norm, morale is through the floor, productivity is rock-bottom and new ideas are a sin – here’s 7 really easy steps to follow.
Step 1 – Muddy the Waters
Ensure that no one in the organisation knows the objective.
Create confusion around the contribution your team is making towards the goals and direction of the company.
Ideally, change goals regularly – without warning, for no apparent reason.
And most importantly, ensure that individuals have no clue as to how their work contributes to the goal of the team or organisation.
Muddying the waters creates confusion and ensures that no one feels any sense of achievement – this is a key component to creating a workplace that sucks.
Step 2 – Create Well-Rounded Employees
Find out the strengths of individuals and then assign them tasks that ensure they won’t get to use them.
Push them into their areas of weakness. Force them to do work that they find un-natural, unrewarding and disengaging.
Dress up this cunningly destructive ploy as one that is seeking to develop well-rounded professionals.
Remind them that working within their areas of strength is too safe and unambitious.
Nothing strips workplace morale or disengages employees faster than a leader that focuses on the weaknesses of their direct reports. Embrace it and watch the suckiness grow.
Step 3 – Insist on Traditional Office Hours
Now this is a ripper of a strategy to creating a toxic workplace environment.
Nothing is more out of date than the old Monday to Friday, 9-5.
Insist on it.
Watch your team squirm as they step out of their, mobile, interconnected world into your domain of great industrial revolution expectations.
If someone is to dare request flexible work arrangements, scoff at them. Belittle them and quip passive aggressively about visibility, accountability and professional standards…
…and then teach them a lesson by sending them an email, containing an action item, at 9pm.
‘Mobile technology is for my benefit, not yours,’ is your new mantra.
The act of turning your back on the modern, connected world – until it suits you – is sure foster a tasty atmosphere of distrust and servitude.
Step 4 – Get the Smile off their Dial
The workplace is for producing results, not chitchat.
Frown on humorous interplay. Ban personal conversations. Mock anyone with a spring in their step.
Happiness may be about the balance between pleasure and purpose – but that’s not your problem.
Your employees come to work to provide a service to customers or to produce a product. Tolerating anything outside of this purpose would be to acknowledge them as humans, thus undermining your path to a workplace that sucks.
Step 5 – Control the Flow of Information
You need your workplace to be silent. The type of silence that hurts the ears.
When someone coughs you want that sound to crash through the air, an unwanted intruder distracting everyone from their work for a moment, reminding them of the awkward noise vacuum they are used to.
Hold meetings behind closed doors.
Guests to those meetings should be mysterious. Anonymous. They should be ushered through cubical-land, straight to your office, like it’s a funeral procession.
Be sure to keep secrets. Many secrets.
Create the illusion of secrets if none exist.
Be sure to never mention your family. And only mention your weekend as it pertains to the time you spent working – but even that should be whispered.
A silent, secretive work environment plays a key role in knocking your people off balance. Their self-confidence will crash. Collaboration will hit rock bottom. Paranoia will take hold.
Embrace it. Feed it. Smell the toxic air.
You’re nearly there.
6. Belittle Achievements
If you’ve followed the previous 5 steps it will be a miracle for anyone to even come close to achieving anything. But if they do, if some resilient upstart, or worse a team of resilient upstarts, manages to swim against the tide and do something valuable, be sure to squash the very thought of it.
Focus on the shortcomings of any perceived achievement. Make up, invent shortcomings where there are none.
Compare it to a superior piece of work that you did earlier in your career. Lie about it if you have to – they won’t check.
Or let them know that the organisation has changed direction and their efforts have been an irrelevant waste of time.
This step is crucial. As effective as the previous steps are to creating a workplace that sucks, some intolerable workplace enthusiasts can extract joy and fulfilment from even minor accomplishments.
If you are serious about creating a workplace that really sucks, you’ll stomp on these resilient little pests immediately.
7. Immerse Yourself in Hubris
You know what’s going on with your team. Your finger is on the pulse. Your ear is to the ground.
Of course it’s not. You have no idea about the irritants the cubilce-dwellers endure. And nor should you. Your office is in the corner and has glass walls for a reason – so you can’t hear the moans or smell the stench.
Problems that are not discussed are no problem at all…
..and if they are discussed – well, that’s trouble-maker behaviour and there’s no place for that around here.
A really nice way to rub the salt into the wounds is to let your team over-hear you telling a more senior member of the business how much you care about your team – how open and transparent you all are about the way you work together.
That makes for a lovely little kick n the guts.
So there you have it – 7 simple steps you can take to make sure the people in your organisation or team are left to marinate in a toxic sludge.
Or, if you’re looking to go in a different direction, you could always try these:
7 Steps to a Healthy Workplace
Check out the Team Guru Podcast