I sat and listened to the experiences that were being shared of bullying in the work place and the impact that it was having on employees of that organization. I was saddened that it was yet another law enforcement agency that was overcome by this poisonous behavior. This news resonated with me more than you can imagine as I come from a law enforcement background having spent close to 25 years in a police force. The behavior existed then and it obviously still exists now. An investigation resulted with corrective action taken but it was like pouring a five gallon can of water on a raging forest fire. It was almost as if it was too big to wrap our heads around what the root cause was and make the required changes.
These examples are not just evident in law enforcement organizations as they do exist outside of that realm. I have done some work with organizations in the private sector that realized there was a problem and realized that they as leaders needed to do something. They wanted to see change in their organization and were willing to do what it took to make that change happen. They were the brave leaders that would be accountable for the way things were today and would be accountable for the outcomes when they actually addressed the problem head on.
I take my hat off to those leaders and to leaders in the future that are willing to take the steps to change their culture from one of negativity and toxicity to that of a positive work environment focused on learning and development with personal and professional growth for everyone. These leaders will invest in their employees and their well-being as that is what makes an organization great. This is a life long journey, not one that we can pour five gallons of water on and hope the fire has gone out.
Mentoring can play a huge role if done properly in the majority of these situations. Mentoring does create that learning and development environment and does create opportunities for collaboration based on trusted relationships and effective communication. Implementing mentoring into an organization struggling with a toxic culture would be like shoving a square peg into a round hole. Not likely going to happen. What I strongly recommend is a culture assessment to determine mentor readiness. What will come out of this engagement is a better understanding of the pain points in the organization and potential solutions to address those pain points. Some common themes that we have seen so far have been issues with building trust, issues with building relationships and a lack of effective communication. All of these are foundational pieces that would help in the implementation of a mentoring program or a mentoring culture. They are also what we would be looking for in an organization that wants to create a work place environment free from bullying, sexual harassment, and intimidation to name but a few. We want to create an organization where diversity and inclusion become cornerstones for the work place culture supported by mentoring programs and/or mentoring cultures.
The journey will take time. Remember that your organization’s culture was not created overnight and has evolved to what it is today over time. Fear not though as good leadership that embrace the “gift of mentoring” and who want to create that positive work place culture will pull together to make the changes required. They are the leaders that get up in the morning and can look at themselves in the mirror and are proud of what they see. It is time for the leaders in your organization to look into the mirror and decide if they like what they see. Hopefully they will embrace the “gift of mentoring” and will begin the journey to create that work place culture we all dream about, after all “can they afford not to?”
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