Flight or Fight to Fix... A Toxic Work Culture

< 1 min 2018-10-09 07:41:16

Author : Sysamone Phaphon

Workplace experience is one of the most significant factors as to why women are leaving their careers in tech. The fight or flight response can happen in physical imminent danger or in the case of a psychological threat. This response plays a critical role on how we respond to stressful situations like toxic work culture.

According to a study by the Center for Talent Innovation:

In the high tech industry, the quit rate is more than twice as high for women (41 percent) than it is for men (17 percent) (Hewlett et al., 2008).


One large-scale study found that after about 12 years, approximately 50 percent of women had left their jobs in STEM fields—mostly in computing or engineering (Glass, Sassler, Levitte & Michelmore, 2013).

Based on the study, we can assume there is a high number of women that take the flight route. I remember a female speaker answered a question that advised women to take the flight approach when they find themselves in a toxic work culture. I was surprised because the question was asked by a woman who explained her love for product and team members but believed leadership needed improvement. To me this sounded like a situation that can be fixed not one to scour an exit from.

There’s a glamour about Silicon Valley startups that aspiring entrepreneurs get enamored with. A lot of people lacking professional experience start companies prematurely fueled by being a master at selling an amazing idea.

The reality that most startup founders learn, is that; having a genius idea, backed by millions of dollars- doesn’t necessarily equate to being a capable leader. Toxic work cultures stem from poor leadership.  

Focusing on improving leadership can turn things around for work culture. What are a few ways anyone on the team can move towards improving their leadership to prevent a toxic work culture from forming?

Be Courageous

Never be afraid to point out a problem regardless of the outcome. I’ve learned that some people don’t speak up because they are afraid of confrontation or what can happen to their position in a company if they do. If someone is unaware of their shortcomings as a leader that is leading to a toxic work culture, how will they ever know they need to fix anything, if it is never shared with them?

Be a Listener

Be aware and open to other team members perspective prior to approaching leadership with changes for improvement to company culture. It’s good to share with colleagues first to get a better understanding of situation before jump starting a riot against leadership.

Be able to provide proposals for change that have realistic execution processes

Let’s not be the person that only complains about what needs to be changed. Let’s be a person that addresses issues while being able to provide various solutions for each area of concern.

If you follow the media, you have probably come across different Silicon Valley tech startup stories going through a crisis management fix or reading damaging stories from previous employees who took the flight route.

Uber and Theranos are my top two unforgettable stories that showcase what can happen if poor leadership isn’t fixed early on. Flight or fix it?

You have options when you find yourself in a toxic work culture with a potential for improvement. Consider the them wisely, you might be the team member that saves a company from bankruptcy or a leader from an embarrassingly public down fall, by preventing toxic work culture early on.

Read more of the quoted study here

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