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Fixing a toxic work culture: How to encourage active bystanders

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Fixing a toxic work culture: How to encourage active bystanders

Active bystander intervention has been found to reduce harassment and violence in colleges and the military. It’s time for the corporate world to take notice.

Last year, thousands of employees of Google staged a mass walkout to protest the tech giant’s approach to sexual harassment and misconduct, accusing the company of protecting, with silence and multimillion-dollar settlements, the executives accused of such behavior.

Among the picket signs: “What do I do at Google? I work hard every day so the company can afford $90,000,000 payouts to execs who sexually harass my co-workers.” It was a textbook and very public example of the wrong sort of response from management to a toxic work culture.

The values and norms that your organization purports to hold are useless if they’re left on the shelf like a dusty book, said Daena Giardella, a senior lecturer at MIT Sloan who specializes in organizational culture, implicit bias, and improvisational leadership. You have to practice and reinforce your values if you want to eliminate toxic behavior in the workplace — which can include not just sexual harassment, but also bullying, put-downs, bias, and angry outbursts.

Fixing a toxic work culture: How to encourage active bystanders | MIT Sloan
 
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