Toxic Workplace

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Toxic Workplace

Have you ever worked in a toxic workplace? Someplace where the people or maybe just one person makes you feel tense? When you hear their voice do you feel your jaw start to tighten or brace yourself for what’s coming next. Or maybe duck into the rest room just to get away? How ‘bout on weekends, do you start feeling stressed on Sunday as you think about the work week ahead? If you answered yes to any of these questions, listen now to CEO Whisperer, Jim Jeffers, who has dealt with some of the toughest toxic workplaces and will share with us how to fix it

What You’ll Discover About a Toxic Workplace:

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  • What factors create a toxic workplace. [2:42]
  • What is the difference between a difficult employee and a toxic one. [5:47]
  • How do you know an employee is toxic. [9:16]
  • What to do if the toxic employee is a co-worker. [29:29]
  • The biggest mistake managers make in dealing with a toxic workplace [21:55]
  • How to keep your workplace toxic free. [13:14]
  • And much more.

How to Guard Against a Toxic Workplace


Hanna Hasl-Kelchner: [00:00:01] Have you ever worked in a toxic workplace? Now, I’m not talking about toxic chemicals, but rather toxic people, chemistry, someplace where people or maybe just one person makes you feel tense. You know, when you hear their voice, your jaw starts to tighten. You brace yourself for what’s coming next, or maybe you even duck in the restroom just to get away. And how about on weekends? You start feeling stressed on Sunday as you think about the work week ahead. Now, if you can relate to any of these situations, stay tuned for today’s special guest who’s dealt with some of the toughest toxic workplaces and will share some tips with us on how to fix it.


Announcer: [00:00:43] This is Business Confidential Now with Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, giving you the inside scoop on how to ignite more business success by doing the right things in the right way.


Hanna: [00:01:00] Welcome, welcome, welcome, I’m your host, Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, and today I am so excited to welcome Jim Jeffers to the show, Jim is a contemporary human resources “Conciliary”  and CEO Whisperer who’s the principal consultant at H.R. Renewal, a human resource consulting firm. His mission is to help organizations build, grow and, yes, protect what he calls breathable cultures from becoming toxic. And he does everything to keep the enemies at the gate, whether it’s taking defensive measures and using exceptional hiring practices or engaging in mitigation or remediation measures that include speaking truth to power by being candid and direct with CEOs.


Hanna: [00:01:48] Jim has an undergraduate degree in speech, communication and psychology, as well as a master’s degree in organizational communication. He’s a long-standing member of the Society of Human Resources Management, better known as SHRM. As well as a member and presenter with the International Society of Performance Improvement. With 40 years of diverse human resources experience, Jim supported domestic and international executive teams in retail education, advertising, banking, automotive, consumer goods, tax, financial services and the non-profit sector. So it is such a pleasure and privilege to have him here with us today. So let’s have him join us now.


Hanna: [00:02:31] Welcome to the show, Jim.


Jim Jeffers: [00:02:32] Hanna it is always a pleasure to talk to you. It’s a great opportunity to touch base and enjoy all of the conversations I’m looking forward to this one.


Factors that Create a Toxic Workplace


Hanna: [00:02:42] Well, I’m looking forward to it, too, Jim, because talking about toxic workplaces almost sounds taboo. And I’m really glad that we have an opportunity to talk about it, because I get the sense that there are so many workplaces that are suffering. But before we can really talk about a toxic free workplace, I think it’s important that we all have the same understanding and can speak the same language about what we mean when we talk about toxicity in the workplace so that we know what we’re trying to get rid of or sidestep. Can you help us out? What, in your experience, makes a workplace toxic?


Jim: [00:03:20] The best definition I give that, in terms of when the workplace becomes toxic and I think the word “becomes” is so important because we’ve all been in fabulous companies that went into demise to toxicity. We’ve been in companies that rose up from toxicity to be a breathable organization. For me, on an organizational level I define an organization as being toxic when discretionary effort ceases to exist. Where it’s just zombie employees coming to work and doing just what they have to do to get by. It’s really a place where fear replaces care. And you mentioned you’ve been in one, I don’t think there’s many people out there that haven’t even had a toxic co-worker, had a toxic boss, or ultimately a toxic organization. And the difference between having a breathable culture and a toxic culture is just immeasurable.


How a Toxic Workplace Impacts Employee Engagement


Hanna: [00:04:20] So it sounds like there’s a pretty close correlation between toxicity and employee engagement. Would that be fair?


Jim: [00:04:29] One hundred percent, because if you look at what drives an organization, what drives an organization is a discretionary effort. We all know that I can’t motivate anyone, but I can create an environment for them to be self-motivated. What makes the difference between people just going through the motions and people going for it, is clean discretionary effort.


Jim: [00:04:55] There’s a great story coming out of Apple where an engineer was directly involved in the launch of the first iPhone and he woke up in the middle of the night on the beginning, the very first launch of the iPhone, and realized there were 12 phones on that line that weren’t fully charged because they took them off to test them and they put it back on the line. He got dressed. He drove all the way back to the factory, found these 12 phones, took them off, charged them and put them back on. And he went back to his apartment and he said that under Tim Cook, he would just go back to bed if he had that dream. So, leadership and culture are what really creates discretionary effort, and it is discretionary effort that gets the great things done and also pulls people along with them because they’re doing it on their own because they care.


Toxic vs. Demanding


Hanna: [00:05:47] Help me understand this, though. What’s the difference between a toxic employee and a difficult one or a demanding one? Someone who says, well, I have high standards.


Jim: [00:05:57] Let’s look at that at two different levels. I’d like to just talk about it at a non-management and a management level, OK?


Jim: [00:06:04] There are certain people, you know, who have some things that make it difficult. The people we typically don’t want to approach or the people we can extract ourselves from. People in the workplace as anywhere else have a level of acceptable quirks. If these were just things we need to be aware of when I help my clients recruit the hiring process is critical. And so there’s certain things with a potential new hire that you might be OK with. For example, there might be an effusive talker, but if they just if they misrepresent themselves or if they come off with any level of toxicity in the interview, you need to walk away from it. And we all have been around people at work we frankly don’t like being around and difficult people. But there’s also people who move away from their job responsibilities and begin dealing with others in a motive driven approach.


Jim: [00:06:58] And that’s where toxicity comes in. So that’s the employee who moves away from doing their job to trying to interfere with others, trying to throw other under the bus, trying to create chaos, take China and the United States elections and people in the mix rather than doing the job. They’re in the soup. When it comes to managers, we’ve all had difficult managers and we all have demanded managers, but what defines a demanding manager from a toxic one is a demanding manager is going to have expectations that are big, maybe bold, but they’re realistic. A toxic manager is going to provide expectations that he or she knows are unattainable. And you know what, the coping mechanism for unrealistic expectations is?


Hanna: [00:07:49] What’s that?


Jim: [00:07:50] To not care. The only way we as human beings deal with unrealistic expectations, which we know are created so that we can’t achieve them is to not care.


Jim: [00:08:03] And we all know those employees who don’t come to that conclusion and just chase this dragon into the woods and they just have a miserable life in and outside of the workplace. So for managers, we look at real realistic expectations, for general employees we take a look at when their behavior and performance become motive driven beyond the job responsibilities of their position. And finally, I think we all know this, that quite often toxic employees are also emboldened by people in power because they’re the CEO’s nephew and senior executive’s golfing buddy, or worse yet, the employees who have had an inappropriate relationship or currently does have an inappropriate relationship with someone of influence.


Jim: [00:08:44] So it’s bad when you’re with a toxic employee. It’s really not good if you have a toxic manager. But when they’re connected to people in power, they’re just unapproachable and run free and create, sustain and expand the toxicity of the whole culture. One person, we’ve all seen this, one CEO, one executive, even one employee who is truly toxic, can have a tremendous impact on the culture of any organization.


The Toxic Workplace Dilemma: Is it You or is it Them?


Hanna: [00:09:16] Yeah, I’m afraid a lot of people have experienced it. But somehow, you know, it’s really easy to have your own insecurities, say, well, maybe it’s just me, you know, maybe I need to do X or I need to do Y, and it takes some time for people to wake up and say, no, this is just plain wrong. And they’re not privileged to do this. There’s just, it’s just not right. It’s not fair. You mentioned something earlier about looking for toxicity in the hiring process because it seems like that would be your ideal weeding out spot.


Hanna: [00:09:49] What kind of things do you look for that would make you say, OK, on paper, this person has terrific experience, great credentials, but then in the interview process, something just is off. What are those things that you would be looking for in an interview process that would suggest that maybe this person can be toxic?


Jim: [00:10:12] I have several clients. We have a service where I’ll do a final interview vetting and I just come in at the very end and just spend some time currently with the situation now on Zoom interviews. And I just come in as a person to look at the person. I’m not immersed in these organizations that I support as clients. I don’t know them in and out and up and down. And that’s a good thing because I’m not carrying in my filters and organizational biases that come with being entrenched in an organization. I’m just looking at the person.


Hanna: [00:10:47] You know, my goal is what Maya Angelou told us: when someone shows themselves believe them. Anybody can interview, anybody can get through a 30, 60-minute interview. My role, my job is to get them into their most comfortable self. Try to get them to reveal themselves beyond simple interview questions. Most people, when they do interviews, they ask the question, if they don’t get an answer, what do they do? They go to the next question. I don’t do that. I go back to get the right answer. I will find at least the person answer the right answer. So the more comfortable they are, you start to see the individual nuances. There’re people who interview well, but if you make them very comfortable and get them into a comfortable space they do tend to reveal themselves. The other part of it is I ask them pretty good and difficult questions that might be a little jarring to some people.


Jim: [00:11:43] And the reason I ask those questions is the key for all of us, and I want to go back to what you said earlier, that it takes some time before you realize, wow, it’s not me it really is that person, is because a lot of toxic people really manage up well, interview well. And we start thinking we start, you know, not judging ourselves. So in the interview setting, I’ll ask questions like, let me put this forward towards the end of the interview, I say things like this: OK with this has been a great discussion, if you could go back and change anything in this interview, what would you change?


Jim: [00:12:20] And it’s very interesting to see how people will go back into that. And it’s a good line to see someone’s self-awareness. If they start becoming a little defensive, that’s a red flag. If they say there’s nothing I would do differently, that’s a red flag. You want someone to demonstrate a level of authenticity, because toxic employees are inauthentic. Toxic employees are people who have a woeful lack of self-awareness, and in this world of toxicity and everything we’ve got going on, you know, it’s just a matter of giving them time to be comfortable and let them see where they are and ask some difficult questions and see what their responses are.


cross talk: [00:13:08] And you go ahead, no, go ahead, you finish with finish your thought, I was just going to play off. . .


How to Keep Your Workplace Toxic Free


Jim: [00:13:14] Well, there’s a couple of things that we need to do, but there is nothing, simply nothing more important than keeping enemies at the gate. There’s nothing. And if the time you mention time again going to take you time, energy and any organization. And this is another red flag. If you see a resume with the person’s in and out every two years, that’s a tremendous red flag just on paper.


Jim: [00:13:40] Why? Because in most organizations, large and small, it takes about two years for a company to deal with their performance, behavioral and toxic problems in an organization. So think of what a toxic employee can do to colleagues, co-workers and culture in a two-year period of time. You should . . .everybody that works at any level of an organization should have the most robust interviewing program possible, because we all know this – to not hire someone that we just have a feeling about is a much easier decision than putting someone into a performance management program once they’re on the other side. And once you put a toxic employee into a performance management program, get ready. They’re going to bang the cup against the cell all day long because toxic employees never want to be revealed.


Jim: [00:14:37] And that’s why people don’t deal with toxicity in the workplace. If a person, if you have a direct report who yells and screams and is defensive if you talk about a minor thing, the vast majority of managers don’t deal with it because they don’t want to put their head in the mouth of the lion. Don’t hire toxic employees, and if they reveal themselves to be toxic. Deal with it immediately. Everybody will respect and appreciate that.


Hanna: [00:15:04] Well, that’s a perfect segue to my next question, because let’s say you are in a leadership position and somebody slip through your hiring process. I mean, we’re all human and we make mistakes. Maybe the interview was done under stressful circumstances. There is a lot of pressure. Things need to get done. You need another set of hands to help move a project forward, to help move the business forward. And maybe they didn’t have the benefit of your interview skills. So somebody gets in and maybe more than one person gets in. If I’m in a leadership role, what are the three best ways to deal with a toxic employee and start to create a toxic, free workplace?


Jim: [00:15:48] Well, again, I’ll go back to number one, keep enemies at the gate. And people listening to this podcast are generally at different levels of an organization. The people it takes to do a startup are different than the people it takes to stabilize, and those people are different than it takes to grow. So just in those iteration stages, you’ve got different types of players and different types of people. So again, have the most robust possible interviewing process.


Jim: [00:16:22] For example, a great way to do this, here’s a perfect example. In organizations an applicant will typically be reviewed by, if they don’t have an HR department, the nature of the paperwork or be reviewed by a manager. That manager interviews that person and then maybe that person interviews with that person’s boss or maybe someone they’ll be working with. But the failure in most people’s interviewing programs is they don’t do that in a matrix contiguous way. They do it in a linear way.


Jim: [00:16:56] The hiring manager interviews them. I like them. Hey, boss, did you like them? Hate this other person or colleague, did you like them? But they talk after the fact. What you need to do is at each stage of the interview, the second interviewer needs to drill down with the first interviewer for any potential flags that might exist there. So they’re prepared to go in and you create an environment where everybody is interviewing now and they may not have asked that follow up question or they may have been concerned about the person’s answer as to why they left an organization, but they don’t share that with each other between interviews.


Jim: [00:17:32] It’s critical to have that debriefing between interviews so that the second and third person interviewing is building off any possible concerns from the prior two. That’s what I mean by a robust interviewing program. I mean, if you have outside help at the end, you’re going to be in a good spot to really be in a position to not hire a toxic person. Secondly, I mentioned this two-year deal. There’s nothing worse than what I call the “New Hire Reveal” — nothing.


Jim: [00:18:00] And I look at, you said it just now, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re not going to get it done. If you’re keeping 80 percent of toxic people out of the organization, fabulous. But if they do slip through, you have to have an extremely nimble performance management program. I’ll give you an example of what I mean by New Hire Reveal.


Jim: [00:18:21] I interviewed someone and I was not one hundred percent sold and I asked her back and then I went to dinner because as HR people and as recruiters, the reason you do the dinner is to watch them interact with the waitresses, the waiters and the help staff just to see how they behave in public. And that she was fine and I went for the hire, but I still had to pit in my stomach. And then she presented at our orientation and she was visibly nervous. I mean, no doubt she was nervous. And so my chief operating officer, the very best chief operating officer I ever worked for, she was in my office and we were just chatting. She was in the meeting and she said, you know, that new person came up a little nervous. And as soon as she said that, I said, you know, you’re right. She did. He definitely did.


Jim: [00:19:12] So after my COO left, I went down two doors and I went to this new hire’s office and I shut the door and I asked her how she thought the presentation went. And she said she thought it was great. And I said, you did come off a little nervous. And she looked me straight in the eyes and she goes, No, I did not. That’s the New Hire Reveal. Everybody in the room would have pushed the button and said, this person is nervous. This wasn’t a minor idiosyncrasy. She was . . . it was like stage fright. And rather than owning it and having a conversation with me, she looked me straight in the eyes and she said, no, I wasn’t.


Jim: [00:19:46] And I knew I was going into a toxic employee right now, because if she can’t speak to the obvious, think of everything in between. And finally demand that your culture be excellent. Demand that your culture is exceptional. I was in venture capital for a while. We sold these companies not just because of their financial rewards, but the way they felt when you were inside them. They were fabulous. I mentioned the COO. She had a great phrase and it went like this. None of my direct reports are ever in the soup. If they’re in the soup, I want to know about it. And that just means they’re not focusing on what they need to do with the organization and the team.


Jim: [00:20:34] And the truth of the matter is, toxicity only exists if your organization has dark corners. It can only exist in that way. If you demand from the top to the bottom to the left to the right, I’ve been referred to as a culture czar, and I’ve been empowered to do this, you know, we put it right out there. You’ve got a toxic manager, you let us know. You’ve got a toxic employee, you let us know. I actually did it. Rather than doing the classic sexual harassment prevention training at one fabulous culture, wonderful organization, rather than doing sexual harassment training, which everybody prevention training, which everybody dreads, I changed the program to “So don’t be a jerk at work.” And it made people think differently. Rather than going in and listen to Title seven, they’re like, well, what do they mean, don’t be a jerk at work? Because it’s not just being inappropriate on a sexual level, it’s being inappropriate on a personal level, on a communication level, on a relationship level, on a personal level. You know, you want an organization where people are working together effectively.


Jim: [00:21:43] So you have to have a culture that demands that it is a breathable culture because that’s what extinguishes toxicity is when you take away all the dark corners.


Biggest Mistake in Dealing with a Toxic Workplace


Hanna: [00:21:55] Well, that’s great advice, Jim. I really appreciate the insight and the differentiation that you made, depending on the type of organization where they are in their growth and development. Let me throw this one out at you. What about the manager who knows there’s a problem? And I heard somebody say this once. Yeah, I knew there was a problem, but I didn’t know what to do about it, so I didn’t do anything. What would you tell that manager?


Jim: [00:22:22] You tapped on the biggest, you know, enabler of toxicity and that’s avoidance.


Jim: [00:22:28] Toxic employees typically manage up fabulously. Senior executives just see these shiny little managers below them and they don’t realize they’re choking the life out of the people that report to them. And it’s just so important because the biggest mistake at the management level is avoidance. Across every organization, it’s 70 percent of managers fail,  of new managers fail, I think it’s actually higher than that, and only 50 percent of organizations have new management training. Well there is a relationship to that.


Jim: [00:23:05] I do what I call management coaching forums, where I’ll meet with an organization’s direct reports to one individual. And it’s typically five or six people. And I open that session and I go around the room and I say, I’m going to ask you a question: How many years of formal management training have you had? And what I do is I take a piece of paper and I write something on that side and I flip it over and I let everybody finish and I ask that question. And what do you think the average response is? I’ve done this in hundreds of these sessions. And the question is, how many years of formal management training have you had? What do you think the average answer is?


Hanna: [00:23:52] I would guess zero.


Jim: [00:23:54] It’s between one and two years. Think of this. And that includes, you know, it goes down to zero, but the average out of that is one to maybe 1.5 years. Our managers who are dealing with the most important and precious commodity are people, in my experience, have less than two years of training in what they’re doing. And if you’re not skilled and if you’re not trained and if you’re not supported by your company, your culture and your organization, you avoid.


Jim: [00:24:28] And remember, this isn’t about talking to someone who has a terrific self-awareness, we get along with who we learned from and, you know, they get [inaudible]. These are toxic employees who are going to deny, they’re going to refute and they’re going to wiggle their way out of any responsibility for their behavior because it’s either purposeful or they have an absence of self-awareness about it. So what do managers do? They avoid it. They put up with it. Oh, that’s just Nancy.


Hanna: [00:24:59] Right.


Jim: [00:24:59] Exceptional work environments don’t have Nancys. They deal with a toxic employee at any level. You know, one of the, again, and I’ve mentioned something earlier about the different stages. Again, let’s use the space X rocket. Right. There’re different stages to an organization, a startup, a stabilization and an expansion and growth period. These are all different types of people. And you can have a person who is perfect for a startup who the last thing they want to see is an H.R. manual. That person could become toxic. And the people that you used to stabilize and develop your organizational design may not be the people you need to grow that business. So every executive team and any of these stages need to realize that the person you hired who was able to get that thing off the ground may be the worst possible manager on the planet. And we all know that we have this incredibly terrible and historical and forever problem in organizations is we reward good workers by making them managers. And it’s a completely different skill set.


Jim: [00:26:16] And then you combine that to a lack of training, and if you’ve got dark corners, you know, a person, a manager who’s insecure can become toxic. The one part that I know in my heart, that extinguishes toxicity or finds it, is the HR person. If you have a solid HR person that people trust and people go to. There you go. They’ve got a place to talk about these toxic people, these toxic managers with comfort and confidence.


Jim: [00:26:49] I mentioned the best COO on the planet, and she was. And we work together and in the most fabulous of ways. And as a person, she would stop by occasionally and shut the door and ask if I had any bad customers. And what that meant is, are any of her direct reports not using my services. She wanted to make sure that her direct reports were using the H.R. function. And if you have a place for people to go, that’s how you can get rid of toxicity. If they don’t have a place to go, then nothing can happen.


Jim: [00:27:27] Now, realizing that not every startup or new organization has an H.R. department, you’ve got a couple options. If you have someone that has the ability to interact well with your employees, let them be the go-to person. Use an outside HR consulting firm. But that role is just so critical to make sure that people have a place to go. If people don’t have a place to go, guess where they go? They leave.


Jim: [00:27:58] I remember an interview I was doing, one of my “last check” interviews for the COO, and the gentlemen’s paperwork is just ridiculous. I went in, and I didn’t like a shirt and again I’m an HR person – I  would have worn a different shirt to the interview, but I got past the shirt and I had a fabulous interview with him. He was just a terrific guy. And as I stood up to leave, I said. I got to ask you a question: why? Why do you want to interviewing? You’re in a great position with a great company? You’ve got some longevity. I just have no idea why you’re interviewing with us. And he goes, “Jim. I love the CEO. I love my manager. I cannot work for that supervisor one more day.”


Jim: [00:28:49] And I knew I had a good hire. I got up and I was walking by and I was leaving and I stopped and I looked back and when I said I got to ask you a question: how many other people report to the supervisor? And he said seven. And of course, I asked him out of the seven how many people are interviewing. And the answer is all seven. So you’re the CEO who’s admired, your manager who’s respected and they have no clue that they have a supervisor driving seven employees out of the organization. You have to stay on top of it. They have to have a place to go and it has to be dealt with.


Hanna: [00:29:26] Yeah, definitely requires listening.


Jim: [00:29:29] 100%


The Toxic Co-worker


Hanna: [00:29:29] And having somebody that’s trusted to listen and share the message. If you are a co-worker with someone who’s toxic, it’s not the supervisory relationship. What do you recommend a co-worker could do? Because sometimes a co-worker could be a bully and they’re toxic in their own way. And what could they do besides find a new job? Is it ever worth going over their heads to somebody else besides H.R.?


Jim: [00:29:57] You know, that’s a great question. And I’ve answered it over the years with a very definitive maybe, maybe not. And the reason I say that is there are absolutely certain sacred cows that are immovable.


Jim: [00:30:14] I don’t think I’ve ever been in an organization that I’ve supported where there wasn’t somebody who shouldn’t be there. But yet, it could be a family relationship. It could be someone who did wonderful. Good example, someone who built that business and they can’t get rid of them because they built that business. We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Bill and these different stages of an organization. So, yeah, there are times when I will tell an employee that this is probably not something that you’re going to find redress for. That will then create some decisions for you. Now, in between that, is that an employee’s manager. You want to have an organization where, you know, a breathable organization is one and if you can say this, where every single person in that organization, when they drive home, they know what their manager thinks of them. They don’t have to wait for an annual performance review. They don’t have to dissect an exchange with their loved one to try to interpret what happened. In breathable organizations, all the employees know where they stand in the eyes of their managers, and that’s exactly how it should be.


Jim: [00:31:24] So if I have a co-worker who’s toxic, if I have a coworker who’s bullying me, if I have a coworker interfering with my work, if I have a co-worker who is inappropriate in a personal way, if any of these things happen, we’re so past the point of asking our employees to deal with it themselves. That’s not my view.


Jim: [00:31:47] If you look at the sweeping changes in sexual harassment in New York City and New York State, principal among the twenty-five changes to everybody’s policy is you have to have a designated person for all employees to go to — which is a snap line to be able to go and tell someone they’re uncomfortable. So it’s not an employee’s responsibility to work through it. Some may do it. Some may be more skill than others, but to me, it’s up to the manager to negotiate that and for the manager to deal with that. And if you have an H.R. department or an individual that can support that manager, that’s the best course of action. But again, in very limited situations, there are immovable objects in every organization, and then it’s just a decision on how to manage around it.


What You Probably Didn’t Know About Jim


Hanna: [00:32:36] Sounds like a plan, definitely. Jim, I’m curious, you’ve worked with so many different people and so many things over the years I’m sure have influenced where you are today and fueled your vision along the way. Is there one influencer you could share with us in the few minutes we have left?


Jim: [00:32:56] Absolutely. I was going to reveal my age a little bit here, but my first real job was working for the Yellow Pages. Back in the day with the Yellow Pages, you if you had a business, you had to be in the Yellow Pages and they had one of the most amazing management training programs that I still refer back to it. I’m still close to members, but I went through that program with forty years ago.


Jim: [00:33:22] And what happened is, we would, up in the Yellow Pages, we would actually hold all the roles. We would review the ads. We would review the revenue. We would do calls over the phone. We would travel with salesman on the road selling. And we did every single position in our company so we could learn everything about the company. And then we were rotated between different locations and I was rotated from Union, New Jersey to Paramus, New Jersey. And I was working in my office and I had developed a habit of working late on Wednesdays. I just always did that. I always worked a little bit later on Wednesdays than I would during the rest of the week.


Jim: [00:34:02] On a particular Wednesday, this new vice president I was reporting to as part of my training was going to the copy machine. And back then there was one copy machine and it was the size of a small vehicle and it had a glass ashtray on top of it. And if you lived through those years, you exactly what I’m talking about. And he was walking back and forth. Yes. With a cigarette, making copies. And he just noticed that I was working late on Wednesday.


The Best Day Off Ever


Jim: [00:34:27] I just started working with him and I delivered a couple of projects I think he liked. He just was walking back from the machine one time, leaned in my door and said, “Jimmy, take tomorrow off” and walk back to his office. Forty years later that was the best day off I’ve ever had because it was a recognition of somewhat discretionary effort on my part. It was reinforcement for some good projects, I delivered early for him and it was the most refreshing day off because the top guy told me, “don’t come in.” And we’ve lost that.


Jim: [00:35:04] You know, between technology and pace and demeanor, we’ve lost that breathable day off. It’s so hard to even have a day off anymore. This is 40 some years later. That was my best day off. I’ve never had a better one. And think about how easy that was. One of the things I’ll leave you with as we talk about the complexity of toxicity. On the other hand, it’s completely easy to have an exceptional organization based on respect, compassion and dignity. It’s pretty simple. Management is not a thing. Management is communication and the best communicators will always be your best managers.


Hanna: [00:35:47] That is tremendous advice. I thank you so much for your time. This has really been some deep insight that I hope helped people understand where they are and maybe where they need to go to make the workplace more fun, because it really can be with everybody bringing their best talents and skills and being something bigger than themselves, being part of something. And I’m sure some people may have some questions, Jim. So if they wanted to do follow up with you, find out more information about their own workplace or how to detoxify something, what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?


Jim: [00:36:28] Go right to, and that’ll give you some insights about the type of work that we do and all the contact information. And to your last point. You’re absolutely right. You know when you’re in DMV and you know when you’re in Zappos. When people are set free and treated with respect, compassion and dignity and their work is respected, you know what? You feel it. When I used to be in those organizations, when I’d interview, I’d leave the door open in between interviews because I wanted them to feel that culture. And it’s simple to achieve.


Hanna: [00:37:01] That’s our show for today. Thank you for joining me. If you’d like to learn more about today’s guest, you can go to our website at It’s got a lot of other powerful information and resources available to help your business grow. So be sure to check that out. The Web site again is


Hanna: [00:37:22] I’m Hanna Hasl-Kelchner. And you’ve been listening to Business Confidential Now. Have a great rest of the day and even better tomorrow.


What Makes a Workplace Culture Toxic?

What’s the Difference Between a Toxic Employee or Manager and a Difficult One? 

Why Businesses are Afraid of Dealing With Toxic Employees  

Guest: Jim Jeffers

Jim Jeffers is a contemporary Human Resources Conciallary and CEO Whisperer.

He is the Principal Consultant at HRrenewal™ and brings 40 years of diverse human resources experience to the table with unique perspectives and a great sense of humor.

He has supported executive teams in retail, education, advertising, banking, automotive, consumer goods, financial, tax services and non-profits.

Jim’s focus is to build, grow and yes, protect breathable cultures from becoming toxic ones.  From keeping enemies at the gate with exceptional hiring prowess to being candid and direct with CEO’s he is all about people being able to work at a great place for all the right reasons.

Finally, it is his belief that it is cultures that can release the elusive discretionary effort of our employees far more than any other factor within our organizational control.  It is cultures that attract; cultures that adhere and cultures that repel our most valued employees.

Related Resources:

Contact Jim and connect with him on LinkedIn, TwitterPinterest and at HRrenewal™

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