Anyone who’s survived middle school knows that trash talk can get messy. Anyone who’s been in the workforce for at least a couple of years knows that trash talk can get particularly messy — and can heighten negativity and tension — when it happens in the workplace.
As therapeutic as it may feel sometimes to vent, or even to bond with a coworker over a shared dislike, ultimately, no one wants to be trapped in a dysfunctional work environment. But what can companies do to prevent this kind of negative culture — especially in a world that’s saturated with social media, which, as we all know, lends itself to public rants? A new survey from the Center for Talent Innovation suggests that trash talk in the workplace more of a problem at companies where employees perceive that those in leadership positions are biased. Of course, this indicates that unconscious bias training is pretty critical, and we know that some top companies heading in the right direction by prioritizing it. In fact, 175 employers, among them PwC, Accenture, and Deloitte, have recently announced their commitment to building trust among their employees by facilitating difficult conversations about prejudice and discrimination; providing unconscious bias training; and publicly sharing best practices surrounding diversity.
Beyond pointing to the importance of eliminating bias, the survey — which gathered input from 3,570 professionals between 21 and 65 years old — reveals the importance of having diversity at the top; the findings suggest that employees are not as likely to view their company’s leaders as biased when the leadership team is diverse.
“As a way to guard against a general perception of potential barriers based on race, gender and sexual orientation, researchers recommended companies prioritize diversity in leadership, as well as employee sponsorship programs,” explains Business Insider’s Jordyn Holdman, who analyzed the survey. Needless to say, if you suspect you’re immersed in a toxic workplace, your company might benefit from building a more diverse leadership team. Not only will these efforts encourage more transparent and effective communication among employees by establishing trust and mitigating biases and perceived biases — they’ll also likely discourage employees from harboring (and spreading) negative feelings they have about their workplace.