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Leave Workplace Hell Behind

Image of man waiting for a bus.

Ugh, I can’t take another day at work!

What do Margie Warrell and Chef Gordon Ramsay have in common? Perhaps not much on the surface. But yesterday, Margie answered a burning question that I’ve been asking about the people on the TV show Hotel Hell.

Corporate culture and human behavior fascinate me. After bumping into Hotel Hell on Hulu, I streamed all six episodes last week and have been mentally scratching my head ever since. Why on earth would people remain in jobs (for years on end) where the boss is abusive and the staff is wholly unappreciated? The funny thing about the show: It demonstrates a common condition for the American workforce. Toxic workplaces damage people emotionally, psychologically, and physically.

Due in part to the prevalence of stress in today’s workplace, behavioral disability costs have increased more than 300 percent in the past decade and account for 30 percent of all disability claims. In addition, medical doctors suggest that stress is the causative factor of illness underlying more than 70 percent of all visits to the family doctor.  —Source: Business News Daily

Worse, we drag those feelings home and it affects the people we care about most. People share their emotions through the open loop limbic system. (In other words, the biochemical reactions triggered by the emotions you feel transfer to the people around you through a primal, unseen, and often unrecognized form of human communication.)

Negativity Bias

Unfortunately, we’re neurologically wired with a negativity bias. Negative emotions hold more sway than positive emotions and, as a result, people are wired to overestimate the impact of negative outcomes and underestimate the impact of doing nothing or taking action that could improve our state.

Yeah, I knew all of this, but as Margie spoke about the research yesterday, things clicked. People choose to stay in hellish jobs because they fear taking an alternate path. They ‘hope’ things will get better on their own. As a result, employees who choose to stay in an abusive employment relationship put themselves on a downward spiral. It eats away at their confidence and self esteem. They become victims of the system. Choosing to do nothing is actually a decision to not only remain miserable, but to feel more defeated over time.

The Boss Also Feels Stuck

If you watch Hotel Hell (or any of these reality shows), you’ll see that the boss feels as helpless and miserable as the employees. These relationships feed off of each other, hastening the spiral on both sides.

Wake up. Your employees seek leadership. If you look in the mirror, take responsibility and ask for help, you can actually transform these painful, miserable environments into a safe haven with mutual respect and a culture that not only rewards people, but encourages them to tap deeply into their potential and reach far beyond their known capabilities.

As someone who’s never been paralyzed by fear to explore new opportunities (perhaps that’s why I’m now an independent), I have a hard time relating to fear so daunting it keeps someone hostage in a hostile work environment. So, even though I “knew” all of these things, I bought Margie’s book yesterday.

It Takes More Than Hope to Get Better

If you’re mired in the “I hope things get better” stage, please contact me. Things won’t get better without an intervention. I can take your culture from toxic to joyful. It takes work, but is well worth the effort. Or, at the very least, buy Margie’s new book, Stop Playing Safe: Rethink Risk. Unlock the Power of Courage. Achieve Outstanding Success.

Thanks for the reminder, Margie. Sometimes we all need a A Whack on the Side of the Head to understand what we already know.

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