From Toxic to Brainy Workplace

Less than 30% of corporate workers care less about their jobs and 20% want to undermine co-workers. There are answers, and they are not in creating more jobs at toxic workplaces.  As economic pressures increase, more and more people complain of lack of character building or ethical values in toxic workplaces. No wonder 75% of workers report they are dissatisfied with their jobs. Are you?

It doesn’t have to be that way. Why settle for toxins at work, or why fall into the eight out of ten workers who don’t see themselves in the same workplace in ten years. If you dislike your workplace, yet are unsure why, take the survey here to help you identify the problem. Research by Cooper now allows people to rate their own job satisfaction by rating 22 items as honestly as you can, and receive a score back.  Help the brain to see precisely where you stand, and it can take you to where you hope to arrive.

Try 10 tactics to eliminate toxins with the brain in mind:

1. Tone toxins tend to surface at work when some people expect what others fail to deliver. Brain based tactic – Have you noticed though how people who  build goodwill with others tend to divert disagreements? In so doing, they lift morale and spread serotonin at work.

2. Financial Toxins come from leaders who make poor money decisions that impact workers with downsizing or pay cuts. Recent research shows that brain circuits raise few objections when apparent experts make poor financial decisions. Have you seen it?  Brain based tactic - take one small step in the direction of profit – to rewire your brain for financial intelligence.

3. Multi-task toxins work against human brains and thwart productivity. Research shows how a central bottleneck exists in the brain, and this prevents people from doing two things well at once. Yet, while inability to process two tasks at the same time, exists in the frontal cortex, demands for multi-tasking comes with many jobs. Brain based tactic – create realistic lists with tasks you expect to complete and check these off one at a time, so they are not lost if interrupted.

4. Pressure toxins prevent goals from being reached at work, since people operate more from cortisol which stirs up conflicts and creates friction. Brain based tactictarget to gain back calm, by listing  key goals in the morning and checking these off when completed. Watch the synergy in your brain narrow gaps between pressured position where you stand and calmer places you’d like to achieve.

5. Sleep-deprived toxins come from overwhelming schedules where people tend to blow it from sheer exhaustion. Perhaps some employees were let go, while others gained double the workload. Brain based tactic – take another look when overloaded to find brain benefits even from mistakes,  whenever you simply build stepping stones forward with lessons learned. That forward action should improve your sleep and goods new from research is that you can repay sleep debts.

6. Cynicism toxins come from chronically negative people who express disdain for innovative ideas, rail against others’ efforts, and distrust motives of most workers in your department. Brain based tactic – if you find yourself over on the darker side of life, with cynics where you work, consider ways to turn off that molecular switch in favor of healthier habits that positive people practice.

7. Perfectionism toxins hamper progress as projects pile up and people fall behind and often feel trapped. Research shows perfectionism is bad for the brain, but what about the demands of a perfectionist manager? Brain based tactic – reboot your brain past perfectionism that stalls progress and leads to job dissatisfaction, by chasing excellence instead as Einstein did.

8. Tedious toxins can lower your levels of dopamine. Brain based tactic -observe people who produce more natural brain chemicals, to override ruts and become highly enthused by what they do. Then emulate a person who inspires you and your brain will do the rest.  Novelty stokes memory and great questions tend to create neuron pathways to innovations and inventions.

9. Bureaucracy toxins can steal satisfaction, and cause regrets for hidden, and undervalued intelligences. How so?  Bureaucratic demands and routine can block simple pleasures from any ordinary day at work, and can cause stress that shrinks the human brain and shuts it down. Brain based tactic -seek out  people who work with their brain’s plasticity to change, tend to take back control of that out-of-sorts feeling that comes from languishing under rigid routines.

10. Bullying toxins find fellow workers blaming clients, you or other workers for poor productivity. Brain based tactic – try  tactics to tame your amygdala with goals of reaching new finish lines, and leap forward to improve your own performance and enjoy new adventures with others at work.

Why not replace toxins where you work with plans for a brainpower boom? Next time fellow workers stir up stress that delivers dangerous pollutants, toss one or all of these tactics into the ring and enjoy the win that you and fellow workers deserve. Stressed brain rely on habit, yet caring communities go from better to best.


  1. Since we worked with Rotary folks who were keenly interested in the problem of a toxic workplace, it’s great you posted strategies folks can use tomorrow.

    Robyn McMasters last blog post..Brain’s Amazing Right Side

  2. eweber says:

    That was tough cause we were supposed to have 20 minutes but announcements bit into that time so people had great questions left unanswered. That sparked me to roll a few ideas around here, as they were raising issues that strike many of us in this tough economy. Isn’t it exciting to see there are solutions to complex problems.

    It’s my hope that we’ll not just rebuild banks but also reconfigure other broken systems such as educational organizations that works against human brains and corrupt health care groups that siphon off funds for personal gain. Imagine world with excellence and fairness in these huge toxic systems.

  3. […] Weber of Brain Leaders and Learners writes about so many ways the brain wiring has to do with our lives. As a serious geek, this stuff […]

  4. […] open access to brilliant thinkers is also to convert toxic workplaces into brainier centers for innovation and […]

  5. Shrikant says:

    This is very good information. Thanks for this.
    I had commented some time back about something on these lines.. how I could be losing my sense of balance with the way the work place is turning out to be
    Seems this is the post that could help me work on that

  6. eweber says:

    Shrikant, you are not alone in your deep concerns for the toxins that enter too many current workplaces. As we identify the problems and pull together on solutions — we really can build spaces for people like you and others who deserve far more! It’s often a mutual benefit when we toss more brainpower into the mix:-) Would you agree?

  7. […] Pay attention to brain wave activity and circuitry which can be altered and upgraded to benefit your work with influences such as music in the background. Sluggish brains, on the other hand, create toxins or depression at work. […]

  8. […] education routines that anger faculty, abuse learners, or feed off cynics who fuel flame wars in toxic workplaces rather than engage opposing […]

  9. I love that you’ve comprehensively listed this out. Really, really important — I completely agree that the atmosphere at work makes a huge difference, and that is a large part of why 75% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs.

  10. eweber says:

    Thanks for your insights here Kriti, the key will be to unpack the toxins in any atmosphere and use tools to add brainpower to reconfigure those areas. It can be done, and you sound like the kind of caring leader that can do it especially well:-)

  11. […] heard of several faculty who left research & teaching because of toxic workplaces” via @ellenfweber (related to my work at Mental Health @ […]

  12. […] it’s not about another person, whom you cannot change. It’s not even about the horrors of a toxic workplace.  Instead it’s about replenishing your deep pool of inner wellness, so that you can speak […]

  13. […] prevents bullying, removes fear and transforms toxic workplaces. It discourages cynicism, encourages people to live and lead with their highest values, as it […]

  14. […] spite of so many tired and broken systems or toxic workplaces that create confusion, targets offer far more brainpower for success. Not because they remind us […]

  15. […] circles daily, whenever they do little and thereby empower bullies to do lots.  Or walk into any toxic workplace to see how a cynic’s damage destroys brainpower for healthy relationships, performance, or […]

  16. […] 9). Tactics to deal with cynics who stop change and hinder renewal while adding toxic chemicals that destroy learning communities […]

  17. […] you seen leaders’ cutthroat behavior that adds toxins to a workplace? Social psychologist, Dacher Keltner spent a lifetime looking for its opposite, […]

  18. […] after Ian’s SOS email, came the phone message from Larissa,  in another state also told of toxins from a few disgruntled workers that appeared set to take down an entire circle, had she not used […]

  19. […] and sustains a brain powered community, while it’s opposite – arrogance tend to trigger a toxic workplace. Have you seen it […]

  20. […] to the right or draws to the left, but rarely reaches progressive greens, Hebbian leaders tend to prevent innovation’s steady trajectory toward future […]

  21. […] its fuel. Yet its absence torments victims of regret, blame or cynicism. It shows up far less in toxic workplaces, and fades in people easily […]

  22. […] found yourself barely surviving criticism in broken systems, you’ve likely opened spigots to toxic brain chemicals common to the critic.  In so doing, you also shut down creativity, which occupies very different areas of the brain. […]

  23. […] and leaders alike bend under the strain of toxic workplaces where cynicism kills innovation, and the brightest often get left behind. There are many reasons […]

  24. […] – as to why we find so little variation in management approaches. Disillusioned workers create toxic work environments that resist change at every […]

  25. […] you noticed how differences tend to submerge into ego shuffles and toxic workplaces when one voice […]

  26. […] problems of morale to profits peril.  Identify  toxins at your workplace based on this survey on the other hand, and your organization’s scores. can inject the morale […]

  27. linda jackson says:

    workplace toxins can make lifes daily work more difficult and seem to take longer. concentration is more difficult and being in that type of enviroment is not where you want to be. making your workplace a little less stressfull for yourself is up to you, which is easier said then done, to avoid negative people you can stay to yourself and not really socialize, but this can cause negativity also. to make the enviroment less negative is a challenge but i believe that if everyone took time to help one another and worked together the work load would feel lighter. again easier said then done.

  28. linda jackson says:

    i believe the only way to try and avoid bad language in the workplace is to not engage in the conversation, hard but if a person constantly uses bad language around you after a while your no longer having conversatons with this person they will probably wonder why or maybe figure out it is they way they talk, just maybe they will change their way of speaking.

  29. linda jackson says:

    no matter what, there will always be toxin in the workplace because everbody is an indivudual with their own minds and opinions. some people feel that their opinions are always right, so they insist on giving advice and they feel that their advice is better than yours. i am not working now, but when i was ive noticed a lot of tone toxins amoung my co workers. everybody wanted what they wanted and everbody wanted to be the boss to one another. i was the one who kept the peace because i was neutrul . all i wanted to do was keep the peace so that my work enviroment would be toxic free.

  30. […] is not to cast blame on either party, but to look at both sides in terms of the lost tone skills and toxic workplaces in our […]

  31. […] Brains to Diversify on Shifting Sands Feb 28th, 2010 by eweber. When Dorthy told Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore, she spoke for many who shuffle constant changes  across differences. Yet, conflict caused by lack of inclusion at work, costs billions of dollars, not to mention loss of motivation and morale, expert Cam Marston reminds us.  It takes radical reconfiguration to diversity and avoid toxins at work. […]

  32. […] deny that inequity and diminished brainpower define toxic workplaces. Inuit leaders taught me, however,  to laugh as a serotonin tactic to lower unfair barriers.  […]

  33. […] Would finer circles come if you recognized toxins that add to depression and detract from work? […]

  34. […] victims of regret, blame or cynicism, where brains default to ruts. It shows up far less in toxic workplaces, and fades in people easily […]

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