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I created a toxic work culture

2 people doing jiu jitsu
03 October 2023

This is not something you would expect to hear from the boss. Yet after I realized what I was doing, I made sure everyone heard me.

Looking back today, I can understand and see how I did it. It’s clear as day. I didn’t intend to. In fact, I called out a few managers on their less than healthy environments. The truth is, it doesn’t take much to head in a toxic direction.


I used to work every weekend and every night. Call it a combination of not being able to shut off my brain and having a ton on my plate. That’s on me. One day I’ll figure out why I did that (still do).


Here’s the thing…without thinking, I’d email an employee late at night. If I was working on something and a question came to mind, I’d ask it. Often times that meant I’d send more than one email at night or on the weekend. By doing that, I was teaching my team it was ‘normal’ to work during family time. Not just that, I was putting pressure on them to do the same.


In the rarest time, I might ask for a response straight away. Without saying a word, I was setting a standard. Everyone felt that if the boss was working, they should be as well. Which wasn’t my intention. Sometimes I felt more productive away from the office. If this is you….I feel you! I really do. I won’t mention what this thinking does to your home life. But I will say this:


Everyone gets their mail on phones. You just have to know, if you send an email after hours, they are going to read it. When they do, 8 out of 10 times they are going to feel pressured to engage right then. I can’t speak for every business in every industry…but I can say in my experience, most responses can wait until the following morning.


“Honey, I can’t read Timmy his bedtime book, I have to finish this thing for work.” When i heard this, it was a kick in the gut. I was the reason she didn’t think she could read her son a book. (A true story)


When I realized this was happening I made a change.


I still send emails to clients and team members whenever I am thinking about something. (I am old, I’ll forget if I don’t) The difference now, I use “send later” if it is after business hours. I still gotta do me. Work when I work. I am not about to force decisions on my team. I would much rather their Monday morning starts with 3 or 4 emails from me.


You can get a glimpse of what the future holds with a new manager. Recently promoted, fired up and ready to rule the world. The ego creates this “nobody works harder than me” mindset. This is dangerous. Intuitive managers will figure this out. Good managers who are less tuned in, will miss it. If you are building leaders, keep an eye on these things. Shine a light on it early.


Your team and your company will thank you for it.


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