Managing a toxic team is a daunting task for any leader, but it can be particularly challenging for women in leadership roles.
Women leaders often face gender biases, stereotypes, and double standards that can make it harder to assert their authority, communicate effectively, and gain respect from their team members.
When a team is toxic, women leaders may face additional hurdles in managing the situation. They may be perceived as "weak" or "ineffective" if they fail to confront the toxic behaviors, or "aggressive" or "bossy" if they take a firm stand.
Here's how one of my Executive Coaching clients took proactive steps to address toxicity on her team and created a positive and supportive work environment.
Who’s in the Hot Seat?
Rachel, a Creative Director at a film studio, was faced with a daunting challenge: managing a team poisoned by negativity, gossip, and bullying. The team was producing lackluster work, morale was low, and talented people were leaving. Rachel realized that she needed to take action before the situation completely spiraled out of control.
Rachel's team was characterized by negative behaviors that undermined productivity, creativity, and morale. Gossip, backstabbing, and cliques were eroding trust and collaboration, leading to a dysfunctional work environment. A lack of accountability, feedback, and respect was creating a culture of fear and hostility, where people felt undervalued and unsupported.
Transforming a Toxic Team to a Thriving One
Rachel's Executive Coaching sessions focused on her taking responsibility for the situation and creating a plan to address the toxic team dynamics.
She started by acknowledging the problem and communicating her expectations for behavior and performance. Rachel also established clear channels of communication and feedback, so that people could express their concerns and ideas in a safe and respectful way.
Rachel took steps to foster a positive and supportive team culture. She organized team-building activities, recognized and celebrated achievements, and provided coaching and mentoring to team members who needed help. She encouraged open and honest communication, constructive feedback, and collaboration, so that people could work together effectively and learn from each other's strengths.
Rachel knew that she had to take a different approach to manage the toxicity on her team. She shifted her mindset from being a "fixer" who solved problems on her own, to being a "facilitator" who empowered her team members to work together and find solutions collaboratively. She also recognized that managing a toxic team was not a sign of weakness or failure, but an opportunity to learn and grow as a leader.
Rachel's efforts paid off. The team gradually transformed from a toxic environment to a healthy and productive one. People started to trust and respect each other, and the quality of their work improved significantly. The team became a model of collaboration and innovation, and other teams at the studio looked up to them as an example to follow.