Leadership lessons to eradicating toxic behaviors in work place

* It is also common among politicians and a President that allows such will never succeed

* It is, therefore, a brave duty and responsibility of managers or those in leadership to discourage toxic behaviors in any organization

Analysis by Chifipa Mhango, Chief Economist

I want to create a debate on leadership — I know some will have a different view but nonetheless, we will agree on one thing that there is toxic workplace behaviors to which lies are dominant. It is also common among politicians and a President that allows such will never succeed.

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Let me share this perspective of my career life on eradicating toxic behaviors in work place. I have been a Manager from a tender age of 24. I have been heading departments, where I have had people of diverse races, ages, tribes, gender, religion reporting to me.

One thing I learnt quickly is how people would want to talk bad of others so that I should favour them. At one time I did this below, without giving details of names:

This Person ‘A’ was talking ill of another Person ‘B’ to me in my office. I then stopped Person A, pretended to do a text quickly on my phone,  meanwhile I was recording.

Person A went on and on. When finished, I asked by addressing the person A by real name, to say are you sure that all you have said if I ask you to put in writing you would do it? 

Person A was hesitant in response. I then asked, if I call this Person B here and ask you to repeat what you said, would you do it? Person A was also hesitant in response.

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I then paused the recording without Person A knowing. I went out of my office to talk to my PA to call Person B into my office. When Person B arrived, I just told Person B in the face of Person A that I have called you here to address few issues between you and Person A openly.

Person A was shocked. I then went straight to play the recording. After all had listened, I asked the two if they had any comment — the Person B was shocked with tears in the face. The Person A was shocked that I recorded the entire talk and also embarrassed. 

My lesson to them was clear — I am not a person to be used to gossip.  Also in life, those that are not honest will never write but only talk because it’s easy to deny it when confronted because there is no evidence. So those that lie will never want to put what they say in writing.  

In the end, the Person A felt very uncomfortable and decided to resign because of guilty conscious.

I know some legal minds would say, I recorded Person A without consent, that is fine but I also know that liars will never seek legal consent from those they want to lie upon.

So over the years as I changed jobs, my first talk to my subordinates has been to discourage gossip and lies. I would then always refer them to this story.

It is through such that I have been able to work and manage teams well without any toxic behaviors.

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That is how I have also managed my household — my own children know this very well. Hence they can never talk ill of each other to us parents.

For any organization, toxic behaviors is the reflection of culture which is encouraged by those in leadership. When an organization core values stand on the principles of honesty and integrity, those in leadership position should be at liberty to ensure that the values are adhered to.

It is, therefore, a brave duty and responsibility of managers or those in leadership to discourage toxic behaviors in any organization.

Chifipa Mhango

* The author Chifipa Mhango, Chief Economist for South Africa’s Don Consultancy Group and he is always offering solutions to Malawi’s economic and social shortcomings