Thriving in a Toxic Work Environment 3 – What Do you Bring to the Table?
Thriving in a Toxic Work Environment: What do you bring to the table? In most work environments nowadays, productivity takes place in a shared space. We are grouped together in teams or by office structure. Nowadays, shared spaces are the new norm, and companies are using more of the team concept as a way of reducing costs and increasing productivity.
As we venture into these office settings, we notice that most of these table team set-ups are very similar to traditional dinner table set-ups with 4 or 6 stations around the table, depending on the team size and the table length. This set-up is not surprising as the standard salesman wants to make their way to your kitchen table in order to gain a psychological advantage and increase the likelihood of closing the deal.
It is believed that most of the important family decisions are made at or around the kitchen table. From this concept and ideology arose the conference room, and now also the team productivity shared desk model. Each team member brings a different outlook, understanding, subject matter expertise, soft skills, hard skills, mental capacity, psychological profile, and workability that lends to or takes away from the team’s productivity.
If you were to peer into the Human Resources file cabinet or shared folder at the personnel files of various team members, you would probably find the typical CV mentions a good communicator, able to work in a team, team leader, or leadership mentioned as a key soft skill. We all want to be leaders, and we all believe we are capable of working in a team setting.
The real question is: what do you bring to the table?
When asked that question in a group setting, one is very quick to mention all of their strengths and readily spout out a certain rehearsed scenario in which the individual had to manage an out-of-control situation. This is not bad or uncommon, but this behavior is consistent over the course of the duty – day in and day out.
Is the teammate capable of being trusted to do their work to the best of their ability without a reward or deadline in the balance? Do individuals hold themselves accountable as being good stewards of shared resources, office supplies, printing supplies, etc.? With the pandemic recovery in full swing, most companies are trying to regain their footing or venture into new territories and domains left open by the closing of other companies. The last thing companies need are wasteful employees or unproductive team members, for that matter.
Last week we discussed the question: Where are you?
As part of that question, we dealt with being properly equipped for the location in which you are operating. This week’s question is of a similar vein. We find ourselves asking the question, “What do I bring to the table?” I remember, some time ago, I would be invited to barbecues, cookouts, and picnics. I made various dishes, but only one of those dishes was requested repeatedly – my barbecue baked beans. I remember getting emails and phone calls from various people requesting a big tray of baked beans. In fact, there were times when the beans were made to tables where I was not invited. I still made them with a sense of pride, and over the years, the beans evolved from spicy pork to ground beef to chopped Angus burger.
What I have found to be interesting is that in most of the places I was asked to bring beans, it was unacceptable and almost taboo to show up empty-handed. There was an expectation that each guest would show up with something. This is the working mindset of most supervisors, managers, area managers, and so forth.
Everyone must show up with something of value to add to the team.
As we also discussed last week about preparation and being prepared to work, it is imperative in this post-pandemic environment that each team member shows up. Whether the team is blended, office only, or WFH only, each team member has a responsibility to be present and productive.
Oftentimes, an employee or team member has had the opportunity to perform some sort of assessment that gives recruiters and HR managers general ideas of the team members’ potential and probable pitfalls. There are three constructs around which most careers are built, Interests, needs/values, and abilities. There are other areas that most career counselors seek to find answers to for counseling, but these three are usually the center of most individuals’ career choices. For this reason, when we seek to do a deep dive into the question.
What do I bring to the table?
Start by performing an informal self-assessment of these three constructs: What are my interests? Are my needs/values being met? What abilities am I bringing to the job? The second question may seem a little out of place, but it is actually central to this conversation as the answer will carry one’s mentality and attitude when it comes to the task at hand. It is the difference between average to good and good to great.
For instance, in some instances, a team member’s performance may lag due to the fact that the team member may feel they are not treated fairly or makes less than another team member. Some team members may have a need for validation when it comes to their work products, and if the member feels that they are performing at a level above the rest of the team but is receiving no accolades or appreciation for their efforts, then there could be a shift in that member’s performance or attitude.
These nuances and tidbits are not often found on the CV nor discovered during the interview process. Eventually, the member sours on the organization and then may demonstrate behavior detrimental to the team.
This level of demonstrative performance may lead to a rise in the toxicity of the workplace, and soon the disgruntled employee finds or nurtures others to be disgruntled, and before long, a once proficient and efficient team is no longer capable of getting a long or producing even at the lowest level of expectation.
The previous scenario may be an extreme example, but it is necessary in order to give context to the question. As team members, team leaders, and future managers and leaders in the corporate world, we must govern and moderate the behavioral aspects of performance.
It is true that most, if not all of us, have blind spots.
A Blind Spot is – a lack of insight or awareness—often persistent—about a specific area of one’s behavior or personality, typically because recognition of one’s true feelings and motives would be painful. In classical psychoanalysis, it is regarded as a defense against the recognition of repressed impulses or memories that would threaten the patient’s ego (APA Dictionary).
These blind spots are most prevalent at points when we feel threatened in a certain area or can be seen in acts of favoritism or perceived favoritism. The difficulty is in perception. There are times when we read the situation improperly and react based on a misunderstanding. Keen insight is helpful in allowing us to navigate these situations. Situational understanding, both as supervisor and employee, help the company grow and continue to be productive.
Also Read: Thriving in a Toxic Work Environment, Part 2
What do you bring to the table?
Ability is a key cog in productivity. Availability, sustainability, suitability, and stability are all requirements for the long-term success of a team, office, and company. As a vital part of any team, each member must show competence, be confident in their ability, and be willing to be flexible and versatile. Agility is another key term thrown around the corporate world these days.
Do team members have the competence to turn on the drop of a dime and perform in various stages at various levels, and downsizing and repurposing take their places in the corporate structure? What are you bringing to the table? Is your dish suitable for everyone at the table? I mentioned early that the beans evolved, and with good reason. I became friends with people from different nations and cultures and with different religious lifestyles. I learned to be flexible in how I prepared the beans, which became a life lesson and an approach for me to take on any task.
Once we understand what we are equipped and prepared to do, everything else becomes much easier for us to manage. Take this opportunity to peruse the questions in this article again and begin your self-study. The questions become more and more technical by design.
It is important for the plumb to continue to fall deeper so that you are able to get to the real answers about you that you are seeking and, in the end, make the necessary changes in order to become a better employee, team member, and person than in the process, make your work environment a much friendlier and more productive space. What do you bring to the table?