10 Ways To Neutralize Toxic Energies In The Workplace


by Angela Kambouris

The 21st century is basking in change and no one is immune to the experience. Rather than buying in to the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), it’s time to quit wishing the change won’t occur or resisting the opportunity to contribute.

Resistance to change, lack of alignment to business and the lack of buy in, is costing organizations millions of dollars per year. Gallup research estimates the cost of workplace drama at over $350 billion per year in the United States. There are many tools and programs available however the root cause is not being explored to be able to affect long term sustainable change.

In business, whether it be small business or large conglomerates, leaders continue to reinforce beliefs that people are at the mercy of their circumstances. Leaders mollycoddle, rescue and enable individuals into co-dependent relationships.  Drama is perpetuated within the business resulting in reduction in productivity and increased emotional waste.

Our intentions may be good to protect and create safe environments however what we create are spaces that diminish people’s preparedness for change. Change isn’t hard. It’s only hard for the people who are unready. So much wasted energy is invested in reinforcing negativity about the change – “it’s too hard, I don’t have time for this training, I have too much work on, nobody tells me anything, l haven’t been consulted”. When we invest energy into talking about how hard change is, our belief system will gather all the evidence to support.

When we invest time into eliminating emotional waste by facilitating resourceful thought processes, investing in curious questions centered around personal responsibility, people’s contributions increase as they engage in activity rather than drama. Let’s keep it simple. When we subscribe to driving our own bus, then we are 100% responsible for our results. Our level of accountability determines our happiness, not the circumstances around us.

Modern day leaders, it’s time to cut the complaining, stop drama filled stories and arguing with reality. Recouping problem saturated time into impactful, value adding and deliverable results. No more of “my colleague is slacking off and l’m doing all the work, nobody tells me anything, I don’t have time for this training, too much work on or I don’t get paid to stay back”. Whining, gossiping, complaining are wasted energies that stain the fabric of the organization.

Drama can play out in more subtle ways and over the years the open-door policy has fueled it. People withholding information, leaving out important details, refusing to work with someone, holding on to work that should be delegated and when in a bad mood, enter at your own risk. The unspoken rules that permeate the organization and create a stench.

A ‘hands on deck” mentality where all focus on delivering results is demanded. Eliminating drama and increasing quality and efficiency, creates a competitive edge. When we feel disappointed we can choose to saturate our environment with bitching or drowning our sorrows by keeping our feelings bottled up while we stew them over or choose to have a Dali Lama experience to let them go and move to more solution focused questions. May be a ‘How can l help?’ It is always your choice.

Let me share with you 10 ways to create a work climate that frees people to focus on delivering results.


Real engagement requires accountability

Drama has nothing to do with reality. It’s the story we make about reality. We become masterful as we create our meaning to the experience. If your leader asks you several questions in a short space of time about a project, you may construct a story that they are micromanaging you. The reality is that they asked you some questions. The rest is a made-up story. When our energy is not invested in making stories up about circumstances, we capitalize on our time to be more productive and happier in the workplace. Fancy that, we come to work experiencing a freedom in our work. Wouldn’t want to do that.


Curiosity killed the cat – do more of that

Start asking great questions. Facilitate great thinking through self-reflection. When we hit pause, and adopt curious questions to decipher what is real or not, we deduct all the story to examine the facts. We ask questions specifically around ‘what do l know for sure, what could l do to add value right now, how could we make this work?’ Wasted energy dissipates and we invest in ways to collaborate and develop solutions. We transform negative energy into self-reflection. We bypass the ego and our need to be right to step into accountability through self-reflection.


Eliminate the drama king

Ego creates chaos. Self-reflection and accountability trump ego. Happiness is a choice. Engagement is a choice and not a job description criterion for a leader.  It puzzles me how leaders believe that it is their responsibility to ensure employee engagement. Unless you are working with 2-year old’s, not sure where we lost sight of individual responsibility. You determine your happiness and success at work.

Happiness is an inside job. Expecting your success at work to make you happy is the wrong way to think about this according to Shawn Achor. Shawn shares that 90% of your happiness is predicted by how you process your work internally. The other 10% comes from your external world.

When leaders adopt an accountability practice through meeting demands in exchange for employee engagement, the strategy will sink exactly like the Titanic. It is a waste of energy, time and resources. Accountability is a mindset, engagement a choice and happiness a by-product.


Increase value to the business and feel fulfilled

Change is only hard for the unready. When you are open to expand your unfamiliar zone, experience new things and surround yourself with successful people, you will be open to what is next and with small steps and consistency, progress is made. When you adopt the mantra – ‘say yes and work out how’, your paradigm shifts.


Don’t eat the elephant in one chunk, bite sizes

To grow people beyond their circumstances, small chunks are required. Having worked with thousands of clients who have experienced trauma, circumstances do not define their ability to succeed. Oprah is phenomenal example of rising above her circumstances. Opportunity and growth present themselves in the current reality. Turn excuses into results by taking bite size pieces and facilitating accountable practices.


It’s time for a new benchmark of excellence

Coaching people and facilitating growth opportunities through applications of tools in real time to unlock breakthroughs creates a shift in people’s level of consciousness. By integrating curious questions to delve into the heart of the challenge and eliminate the highly toxic emotional response, the brain begins a trans derivational search for finding answers. Leading with questions such as ‘What are the facts? What would add more value right now? Or what would great look like?’, moves the individual from no responsibility into self-reflection.


The Venus flytrap

Have you ever seen a Venus flytrap in action? The carnivorous plant with its unique jaws close on its prey, secrete enzymes that break down the insect into a goo. They suck in their prey like underwater vacuum cleaners. Like the Venus flytrap, sympathy comes from a good place, however often soothing the person’s ego by agreeing and colluding with the individuals self-imposed suffering can be “gooey”. Ever heard a leader lead a discussion with ‘l’m sorry that you must take on more responsibility and l agree that more work will come with this new change?’ Agreeing with an individual’s narration and assigning blame prevents the person from being able to rise above the drama and stand in their greatness.

When we come from a place of empathy, we acknowledge that someone is struggling and we facilitate the experience by allowing the individual to find the very place they need to grow and rise above the struggle. When change is being rolled out, empathetic leaders simply let people know what is required from the organization and involve the group in planning for how the team can deliver results.


Emotional constipation

Have you experienced being irritated with a colleague for being late to the meeting, angry with a staff member for spending over budget or frustrated watching the gossip at the water-cooler? When you allow these emotions to build up over time, they become toxic and contaminate relationships around us. Emotional constipation occurs without a functional way to process and purge these emotions.


Responsibility starts and ends with you

Leaders need to begin with their own self-audit. Question their own thinking, edit their own stories and ditch their victim-mindedness. Develop a set of rules within the workplace, get clear on what the role as a leader truly entails and what are the non-negotiables.

Asking yourself the questions – ‘What was my role to this problem? What story am l telling myself right now? What would l be doing if l didn’t have the story? What would l change in my approach? How do l need to look at this to make it a possibility? How can l step this up 20%?’ By asking questions we are extracting facts from story and neutralizing the toxic energies. It’s time to put ourselves in charge of our emotional waste facility.


Binging on PIMM’s

When you immerse yourself in story-telling, sulking or gossiping, you are allowing your ego to create a roadblock to self-reflection. Venting feels good, like binging on PIMM’s but not a sustainable lifestyle. The Handbook of Emotion Regulation confirms venting your anger doesn’t reduce it, venting intensifies emotion.

Highly accountable and resilient leaders are cultivated over time. They adopt a belief system that they are accountable for their actions and results. Their mindset is developed through challenging experiences, coaching and feedback, layered with self-reflection. You can’t vent and self-reflect at the same time. Ego does not allow for our inner 2-year-old to multi-task. Curious and purposeful questions promote self-reflection and purposeful analysis disarms the ego. Leaders become neutral on issues and focus on facts. It all starts with you.






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