Holding leaders accountable for toxic organizations

By sheer coincidence this week, I’ve been exploring the theme of “Toxic Organizations” with all the first year Commerce students in my organizational behaviour classes at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. It’s a growing research topic in my field, and too much of my consulting work these days involves helping people get rid of the toxins in their work and team environments. And it’s a really tough thinking agenda for anyone deeply concerned with healthy workplaces.

The term “Toxic Organization” needs to be carefully defined, because it’s more than just the garden variety stressful and turbulent workplace most people experience. We are all familiar with the recent Statistics Canada reports about life pressures and work-related stressors, plus the almost epidemic rates of workaholism in our society. Think of that as “normal” life for most people, especially dual-career couples with small children. Toxic organizations are different – they literally make people sick, in body, mind and soul.

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Dr. Sandy Cotton