The other day, I was in a very intense conversation with the owner of a financial services company, regarding the toxic corporate culture that is becoming mainstream in certain sectors of the marketplace. This phenomenon is having adverse consequences and its effects is not always properly appreciated. It can have devastating effects in terms of value destruction, careers of very bright and competent professionals prematurely aborted, diversion of energy into contestation mode as opposed to productive output, and just the total negative image in which the world will soon perceive your company as a reliable business partner. Webster’s dictionary describes corporate politics as a negative competition between interest groups or individuals for power and leadership.

In the marketplace, we need more leaders who serve from the heart, not just climb the ladder. Given the notorious self–centered and survivalist nature of the marketplace, we will be well advised to pay attention to the words of one of the greatest leaders that walked the face of the earth. Jesus when the question of leadership arose in Mathew 20: 25 – 26 ( MESSAGE ) “ You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It is not going to be that way with you. Whoever wishes to be great among you must become your servant.’’ 


Human beings have the general disposition to justify their conduct at all times even to the extent that the real motives for their conduct are simply overlooked. One should therefore develop a sense of self-awareness and constantly interrogate the motives of your heart. Vigilantly guard your heart against the following misplaced motives:
1.    Self-promotion
These kind of people suffer from a very poor self-image and go on an aggressive campaign to compensate for it. They will stop at nothing to just use others as pawns to bolster their reputation; name dropping being one of their favorite hobbies.
2.    Manipulation
Doing all the right things but with wrong motives. Such people can even generously support a cause in order to manipulate the direction of the group to suit their agenda.
3.    Status consciousness
Status got to do with privilege. You will be constantly reminded of who they are in the pecking order and what entitlements are due to them.
4.    Speaking negatively about those regarded as potential rivals. 
5.    Highly opinionated
They surround themselves with lackeys and feel very affronted when their views are challenged. They never solicit an opinion from anybody and view people as a mere audience.


Let’s explore a few scenarios to illustrate practical ways that will bring about the desired changes in the workplace:

1. Promoting Employee Well-Being and Work-Life Balance:
Scenario: You are a manager in a fast-paced marketing agency, and you notice that your team is experiencing burnout due to heavy workloads and long hours.

Specific Suggestions:

  • Implement flexible working hours to allow employees to balance work and personal commitments.
  • Advocate for the “no after-hours email” policy to reduce the expectation of constant availability outside working hours.
  • Initiate “well-being check-ins” during team meetings to openly discuss any challenges team members might be facing and find supportive solutions. 
  • Monitor leave patterns meticulously, to ensure that staff members do not work for long periods of time without taking leave. 

2. Promoting Continuous Learning and Skill Development:
Scenario: You work in a mid-sized accounting firm, and you want to encourage your colleagues to embrace a culture of continuous learning and professional development.

Specific Suggestions:

  • Organize regular lunch-and-learn sessions where employees can share their expertise and learn from each other.
  • Advocate for a budget allocation for training and certifications to support employees’ pursuit of personal and professional growth.
  • Set up a mentoring program where experienced employees can guide and support newer team members in their career aspirations.
  • Introduce a rewards system that recognizes employees who actively pursue learning opportunities and apply their new knowledge to improve processes.

3. Encouraging Open Communication and Feedback:
Scenario: You are part of a project team in a creative agency, and you’ve noticed that some team members hesitate to speak up during brainstorming sessions.

Specific Suggestions:

  • Create a safe and non-judgmental environment by appreciating all ideas during brainstorming, regardless of their feasibility.
  • Use ice-breaker activities to encourage team members to share their thoughts and opinions.
  • Organize regular one-on-one meetings with team members to provide a platform for confidential discussions and feedback.

When I arrived back home after my earlier discussion about the deteriorating corporate culture, whilst browsing through my mail and still in a contemplative mood, I bumped into the following piece that really spoke to me in such a profound way:

‘’ People are often unreasonable, irrational and self – centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”   ( Mother Theresa ) 

Given the adverse effects of the prevailing corporate culture, the directive from the Greatest Leader to ever walk the face of the earth, is well founded ‘’ ….It is not going to be that way with you.“  We have got to set a new standard in the market place and model one that is directly oppose to the prevailing one. The greatest part of our day is spent in the workplace; if there is a toxic culture prevalent in that environment, it can have negative spill-over effects in all other areas of our lives. We owe it not only to ourselves but even more importantly to the next generation. When our time comes, we should exit the scene much better then the state in which we found it. The mark of a true leader is how they lift others up, not just themselves. The market place is yearning for humaneness, respect, dignity, compassion, authenticity and providing people with a greater sense of meaning. 

How will you respond in a real and practical way to bring this about in your circle of influence?
Will you show up to foster meaning and purpose in the workplace?

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