Some people call me a cheerleader (admittedly, I'm a natural at enthusiasm), but I'm actually a champion of those who value integrity.
Because really, what's more important than the principles we exude...and thus, the principles we spread?
One morning over a decade ago, I dressed for work, gathered my keys, and got in my car not bothering to shower or even brush my teeth, because esteem doesn’t matter so much when you’re operating on pure, unadulterated despondency.
My job, where I had quickly advanced as the top regional performer in the company, was a place where I’d numbed to the thrills of achievement and success because, quite frankly - nobody but the devil thrives in a hellscape.
I’d spent too long on the receiving end of what society politely calls “workplace bullying.” Which is euphemism for toxic adult behaviors that enable a perpetrator to get what they want, maintain a status quo, and leave rattled and resourceless people in their quake.
Also, I’d recently made the situation worse by filing a formal complaint. In short, I was collateral damage in a company that had no process for rebuking inappropriate, unsavory activity. And when you have no process to deal with toxicity. You have no procedure to dispose of it.
That morning on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, exhausted from the drama, with an unrecognizable version of myself at the wheel, my depression weighed in with a solution - that instead of going to work that day, I should simply drive off the road. Even though I knew my workplace was irrational...I didn’t know irrational was contagious.
So I swerved off the interstate.
But in that half second I spent careening off course, my reflexes responded, and I yanked the wheel away from disaster. After clipping the guardrail, I swerved back into the flow of speeding traffic.
Adrenaline is a powerful drug. And just like that, I was fully, irrevocably awake.
Ultimately, I did go into work that day. And I promptly handed in my resignation.
That alarming incident was a catalyst for my career as a keynote speaker and consultant, but so was the time wasted in normalized abuse - the unchecked, death-by-a-thousand cuts bullying that happens daily to sixty-five million people in this country alone.
Statistically, this trend is worsening.
In other words, bullying isn’t unusual. It’s endemic.
In my research, learning, and authoring of books, I’ve steeped in big questions like what constitutes a “bully?” How is it possible that we nurture them and their resulting misery in our professional environments? Why do we tolerate the intolerable? How do we take care of ourselves when we experience and confront these soul assassins? How do we build processes that expose toxic behaviors and discard it? How do we identify it in all its forms from overt intimidation to the most undermining manipulation? How are good people supporting this behavior? How are good people participating in it? What exactly are the consequences?
And also, when people aren’t themselves because they’re impeded from doing their work while too busy surviving the workplace, who are they? And what out-of-character behaviors are they capable of?
My work isn’t about rehabilitating mean and manipulative conduct. It’s about restoring the severed lines of communication their behavior creates which has dire consequences on a company’s safety and bottom line. It’s about ending generations of professional suffering and creating healthy work environments where people actually have the opportunity to do solid, incredible work.
It’s about waking employers and employees up to the obligation they have to themselves and each other, as our contributions to the workforce and the world matter. Because as soon as we decide they don’t - we’re destined for a terrible crash.
People are stronger, smarter, more productive, more creative, and happier when they’re treated with respect.
Which means so are you. Which means so am I.
So why would we settle for anything else?
This is a serious issue, but we can counter it with big positivity, strong energy, massive bravery, tremendous dedication, and relentless humanity. That’s how we put big positivity, strong energy, massive bravery, tremendous dedication, and relentless humanity in the workforce.
It’s also how we put it out in the world.
If you're up for a good laugh, you'll love reading this: 44 Things That You Don't Know About Shola
Shola shares his origin story and his passion for workplace civility and kindness.