American workforces face tough environments. A recent study by Rand Corp, Harvard Medical School and The University of California, Los Angeles found in a 2015 poll of 3,066 US workers that nearly one in five employees report that they work in threatening or hostile conditions.

When supervisors and managers come to my classes for leadership training, one question I nearly always get is: “Will my leader be coming to a class like this? Because they do not act the way you are teaching me to act.”

Negativity, complexity, and a frustrating lack of progress in the face of unrelenting pressure takes its toll in the form of burnout, voluntary terminations and disengagement. The Gallup organization reports that approximately 70% of United States employees are disengaged, an alarmingly high number, which unfortunately includes leaders. (Meaning they are mentally checked out, are putting out the minimum in effort or actively trying to get out of the company.)

Now that your chin is on your chest, let’s brighten the mood: Culture change is within your organization’s reach. Let’s review a few key points about successful, worker centric organizations.

  • They encourage people to work smarter, not harder.

This shifts the focus from the things that go wrong, such as missed orders, broken equipment, poor employee behavior etc. to the proactive actions that prevent those urgent interruptions, such as excellence in hiring, preventative maintenance and careful coaching.

  • Toxic, bullying leaders and peers are not accepted.

Reviewing the statistic mentioned above: No one should be made to feel in danger or harassed at work. Organizations can set the tone with a zero tolerance policy, a hotline and a conflict resolution approach in teams when needed.

  • Meaningful training and development activities are offered and employees are promoted from within when it is deserved. This helps drive engagement and retention (even for those who are not immediately promoted).
  • Employees are empowered to take initiative, make improvements and even take risks in an effort to strengthen the organization. Employees trust an organization more when they themselves are trusted and given authority to take initiative.
  • They understand the challenge of change- and support employees through it. When companies ram through change after change, employees begin to be overwhelmed and then check out in frustration and apathy. This means more resistance and less effort trying to get comfortable about new ways of working. Organizations need to spend some time in communication and positive coaching to get employees through that first frustrating period of change.
  • Diversity, open exchange and collaboration is encouraged and facilitated. Diverse teams are so valuable in terms of ideas, perspectives, and experience.

group of people in silhoette