How to start changing an unhealthy work environment | Glenn D. Rolfsen | TEDxOslo
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How to start changing an unhealthy work environment | Glenn D. Rolfsen | TEDxOslo


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Ruy Lopes Pereira Imagine that you’ve just received
some negative information about me, just before this talk. Maybe he or she who’s with you today
has heard some rumors about me, some rumors about me being incompetent, being a liar, being a bragger, that I wear women’s underwear – (Laughter) How much do you think that would affect
your image of me right now? As a psychotherapist,
working with occupational health, I’ve met countless employees and leaders who are suffering from a toxic
and unhealthy working environment. They are struggling
because they’re lacking knowledge how to change the environment. They need outside help. I’ve tried to help them and failed,
times and times again. I’ve tried conflict resolutions, group discussions, individual interviews, leadership coaching, failing time and time again to change
this unhealthy working environment. So – Ten years ago, I started
a little investigation of my own. I was trying to figure out
why it is so hard to change, and I found out that a great number
of employees and leaders were talking negatively
about their colleagues when they were not present. Namely, backbiting. So, the definition of backbiting
is talking negatively about a third person who’s not present. I have a question for you all. Please raise your hand if you think backbiting takes place
at your workplace or place of study. Please raise your hand. Wow! OK. Thank you very much. It’s not exact, but I think
about 90% of you raised your hand. In ancient Greece, the great philosopher Socrates
met an acquaintance on the street, and the acquaintance said, “Hey, Socrates, have you heard
the latest news about your friend?” And Socrates says,
“No, but before you tell this news, I want you to pass a little test. It’s called the triple-filter test.” “The triple-filter test?”, he said. “OK.” “First question: what you’re going to tell me
about my friend, is it true?” “Oh, no. I just heard it. I don’t know.” “OK. You can still pass the test. The second question: is it anything good you’re going
to tell me about my friend?” “Oh, no. On the contrary,”
he said. “Nothing good.” “OK. You may still pass the test. The third question: what you’re going to tell me,
is it useful?” “Oh, no. It’s not useful.” “OK,” Socrates said. “First of all,
you don’t know if it’s true. Second, it’s nothing good. Third of all, it’s nothing useful. Why bother tell me?” Do you know who,
in our society today, that backbites? Yes. Women. (Laughter) It’s women. (Laughter) It’s another major group, as well. Namely, men. (Laughter) And why do we backbite? When I backbite, I’ve got this feeling of elevating myself,
while talking other people down. In an additional bonus, I seem interesting because I’ve got some
juicy information that you don’t have. This is how we, as adults,
are bullying each other. I have a second question for you. Please raise your hand
if you want to work in a place where there is no backbiting going on. No gossip. OK. Thank you very much. It’s interesting, right? How to get a permanent end to backbiting? I have done one genius thing in my life. (Laughter) I think this is it. I call it “Gossip 2016,” and this is how you can all apply it
in your workplace, if you want to. First of all, you gather a group. Perhaps, not as many as you are. Second of all,
you ask the first question: “Do you believe backbiting
takes place here?”, and they will raise their hand. Third, you need to define
what backbiting is. Use this triple-filter test.
It’s good, right? Fourth, ask the second question: “Would you like to work in a workplace
where there’s no backbiting?”, and they will raise their hand. Then, you get a good
old-fashioned flipboard, and you capitalize “Gossip 2016,” and you ask your group
if they want to join a project that will last for six months:
“No Backbiting Takes Place Here.” And they will sign.
This is what obligates them. After they sign it, you [put] this sheet
in a glass and frame, you put it on a wall
where everybody can see it, and every week, for next six months, you ask the group,
“How are we doing with Gossip 2016?” This may seem simple, maybe naive. Too good to be true, right? But it works! I know! And I have over – I don’t have, but it’s over 250 CEOs
in different companies that could verify this. It works. They could also tell you that absenteeism,
sick leave, goes down, and fractionation is minimized, and productivity is increasing. If you take this concept a bit further, you all heard about the discussions
about how young people and children are being bullied at school
and on social media. I think that I, as an adult,
[have] the responsibility to be a good role model. I have to stop talking negatively
about my uncle, about my neighbor, about my colleague,
about my mother-in-law, around the dinner table at home, because, if I don’t do that, I’m actually saying to my children
it’s OK to talk negatively about the third person that’s not there. New consciousness commits. Thank you for your attention. (Applause) (Cheers)

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100 thoughts on “How to start changing an unhealthy work environment | Glenn D. Rolfsen | TEDxOslo

  1. It is hard as a manager to not talk about the employees and how their input is going. We have to share information about certain things like so-and-so called out again or so and so didn’t do what I asked them to do or so-and-so was pretty lazy today. So and so was bringing our numbers down.

  2. I worked in a retail store that was competitive for sales and the women there talked about each other terrible but then I would see them being chatty with each other the next day at lunch. One woman that worked next to me bullied me so bad that my boss told me she was going in her office every 10 minutes trying to convince her to fire me because SHE thought I was bad for the company. I’m the type of person I wanted to confront my coworker but my boss wouldn’t let me. I felt like my coworker should have been reprimanded for doing this but she kept her sales up like I did and management wouldn’t touch her. It’s all about money. My coworker tried every way she could to get the company to fire me and in the end they took my job away and transferred me to a new position with the company. As soon as they did that to me I put in my two week notice. About a year later, that coworker got in an argument with management and quit but before she did, she went into the company files and destroyed all her customers names from the company computers that they owned. She’s now banned from the store. Almost the entire time I worked beside this woman she was a 50ish year old bully. Everything had to go her way or else. She was VERY convincing to others. She was able to give away free items from her counter (testers) to all her friends in the store and if she told them something they thought it was the absolute truth. Her catch phrase was “now you didn’t hear that from me” as she gossiped away. When I first started working she targeted me and had me do something for her, of course I was new and afterwards she hands me $600 worth of testers and tells me how much she loved me. She was a master manipulating bully.

  3. That's interesting. I saw the same theory about the triple filter test which is actually talking a story about Socrates, the femous Greek scholar in ancient Greece, in another place.

  4. From the time you go to school then college/uni & work you have to assert yourself as well as learn, but not be brainwashed & conditioned. Too many employees are stressed out with the pressure put on them by bosses to reach targets to make more profits for the company & being treated like robots.

  5. A great speech! Great example! Great knowledge! I am WOW how he delivered the topic to the audience. Big thump up!

  6. If people followed the Bible, we wouldn't gossip, or do a lot of things we do! We don't need diversity and sensitivity training! What we need is good, old fashioned, fundamental Bible training!

  7. Third-person-gossiping about me behind my back? How blessed I must be! ("Blessed" originally meant "envied," or so I am told.) Thank The Lord, for these people are in my business, and I'm not even present to defend myself. In other words, I have business, and am so important in it that these people envy me to the degree that they slander me, even at the expense of their own reputations. ("Satan" means, "The slanderer.") Hence, judge not, lest ye be judged.

    I have learned that great people implement ideas, big people talk about ideas, and little people talk about other people.

    Even successful politicians seem to have learned long ago–no such thing as bad publicity. So, go ahead and slander me as much as you want. It only hurts you.

  8. Take control of your life by not getting bullied without a fight. Back biting is how my company functions – its a nursing home. When your dealing with fellow employees or patients back biting is the normal way that human beings function. Thats why I prefer little kids and animals to back biting adults.

  9. I think backbiting comes also from frustration of leaders not leading, dealing with horrible personalties. When you bring it to management, they don't want to deal with it and the turn it back on you.

    Its just a terrible situation. There really needs to be some sort of mental health and emotional health test before any kind of employment.

    Some people just need to be out of the workforce, and on disability.

    Its unbelievable what you have to go through just to make an honest living.

  10. Gossip, backstabbing and resentment will happen no matter what. The only option is to get rid of the problem, get rid of the worm inside the organization that feeds everyone.

  11. Yes, there is thi "standard" "coventional" type of gossip…people gosip for no reason…However, there is one other phenomenon among humans that may be percieved as gossiping or rumoring (talking about an absent person) but it has entirely different motive than just finding some satisfaction in talking badly about somebody who is not there, and this other motive is confessing to someone about the absent person doing something bad to you ( e.g. degrading/belitteling you or your work verbally or psychologically, directly or indirectly, putting you down, mocking you, undermining younornyour work in front of others, putting a pressure on you, ignoring your requests or questions, being bossy to you, and demotivating you in any other way). Now, this too is talking about the person while that person is not present, but the motive here is entirely different. In this second case we are talking about a person who feels disatsified/demotivated with the way the absent person is treating her/him, but decided to confess to someone else instead of discussing the issue with the absent person because she feels that the absent person is not unapproachable or reasonable. So, the solution for this second type of 'talkin about the absent person' cannot be solved by this non-gossip policy suggested above but by making the leader approachable and open to help solve the problem and stop the baddoer….

  12. And one injustice that I believe deserves much more attention is the mobbing method used by some employees-namely, their tendency to lebel the just anf fair people they plot against as "too sensitive" "hypersensitive" …

  13. In my experience time and time again, people will say there is too much gossip at their workplace and they don't like it. However "they" are never the gossips. It's almost always everyone else who is the problem.

    So I'm more inclined the believe the real problem is hypocrisy. If people won't accept responsibility for their own roles in office gossip, then giving them advice on how to stop it will go in one ear and out the other.

  14. I’m going to start working on myself and then try to implement in my department. Praying it works. I was bullied like crazy my first year in my leadership position.

  15. I actually thoguht that having a social co wokers style would be helpful, but im in a situation where i give too much trust to a co worker and it use me to scale to top. He did, he arrive to the company with no personality at all, then started behaving like, doing what i did, asking me things of how i would improve so he can take the acomplish. Then, onces he got where he wanted to be, started the “pressure” judging, having a air of “ im in control now “ and also confusing his toughts like a trap. Also backbite behind me in a sutil way, in conclusion… a toxic person who disguise himself as joker but is bad wolf .

  16. I believe that CULTURE is the limit beyond which respect, decency and empathy dissolve, giving way to wrongdoing. People of culture have high standards of humanity and a high respect for differences between people…..
    I think that we should not care much about what people say, but rather focus on raising one's own standards and connect up with people around you in a positive manner, showing that you care not just for yurself, as much as you can….

  17. Sir, in the real world, Corporate America does not care about bullying/harassment, etc., when it comes to higher ups in the company.  The drones, workers, secretaries, staff … ALWAYS have to deal with their insanity with no recourse because human resources is there for the company, not the drone.

  18. Its not just the physical initiatives but the behavioural ones too that can improve health and productivity – Robert Kegan reminds us we get paid to do 2 jobs, the real one and the 2nd one expended where we cover our backs. Gleen Rolfsen tells us how to stop back biting overnight

  19. I'm on a robotics team and I am watching this again to make a presentation and have it approved so we can work on this together. I had a situation where a friend of mine felt really uncomfortable being around another team member so I had to intervene personally. So I want to fix this once and for all in our workspace.

  20. And what do you do when the bully is your boss? I got that last year and that was very tough , I had no choice but to resign. That's no good for you mental, emotional and physical health.

  21. Peace , mercy and blessings of God
    Dr. G
    Do you know that From 1,440 years ago Islam instructions (in QURAN ) was very clear that it is not allowed to backbiting others which affect Muslim's life at that time postivly.
    I will be very glad if u read more about Islamic morals.
    Regards,
    Khalid

  22. This is so true. Backbiting is absolutely toxic behavior. It never helps solve the problem. It makes it worse. Interaction, collaboration and debate help colleagues improve and helps the team become productive.

  23. People back bite because they are frustrated. You are in work to do a job. If the person you need to speak to won't communicate, it can be very stressful.

  24. I found this quite enlightening. Probably not able to influence the worst culprits around me, but can improve my own behaviour. Thank you. 🙂

  25. Interesting approach that I would like to discuss with my colleges, and thereafter try out in my own working environment

  26. You need an outlet to vent to. Whether it's a friend, a trusted co-worker, or family. Know the difference between back-biting and venting. I couldn't cope with much if I didn't have someone to vent to about the toxic environment I'm in myself.

  27. 90% of the audience says it happens at work. Guarantee if you asked them "do you do this behavior?" Nobody would raise a hand….

  28. An organization where there is no backbiting may not be healthy at all. Back biting is a problematic symptom, not the root problem. You can have a very locked down culture where no one is allowed to process truths in an open way so they will gossip and back bite to get the information out. It's part of social dynamics. Conversely, when you develop skills at conflict resolution and have normal prophylactic processing sessions as part of the social and group rituals, the symptom fades.

  29. I am a headmaster of an NGO school. As I was a teacher before. As their needs were not met I went about trying to improve their situation and became very understanding. But they started becoming very casual and even talk back to me and I still don't answer back as I have a flaring temper. I don't know how to gain their respect anymore. I am going nuts and I don't know how to handle them.

  30. I just did this yesterday! I am trying to change it now that I am aware of it. I realized that one woman has latched onto me & all she does is complain about others and it has rubbed off. Nothing out of her mouth is good. Also, Brene Brown said it best, when you judge others and gossip with someone you think you are forming a connection with that person, a common ground, but it does the opposite. The toxic work environment needs to change.

  31. Iam proud that my religion taught me this and happier that people outside of it came across it without having to believe in the same faith ❤

  32. I have yet to find a work place that has any maturity level above high school. I have yet to work for a boss that not only allows it but is blinded by the people who are bullies and drag morale down… not to mention who aren’t even capable of doing their job. 🤷🏼‍♀️

  33. Love this video. If by grace if I happen to set up my own business I will add this in my office clause. No backbiting.

  34. Somebody once told me that when someone is taking about someone else it’s a great defuser to point out something you see positive about the talked about person. Saying, “Oh but she is a real nice dresser, she is a great cook she is fun to work with, etc. thus throws the whole conversation into nowhere and if they keep going, I simply say, I like her. I don’t have a problem with her work, she’s funny …..
    It takes practice or change the conversation to the person talking. Say I don’t want to talk about this or them how was your weekend how was your date I made a really good dinner on Sunday, my kids are staring softball practice how am I going to juggle 2 nights s week and Sat mornings

  35. Excellent insight – thank you SO much 🙂 I want to try your idea. I hope & pray people will be kinder & respectful toward with each other..

  36. This presentation is very relatable and applicable in many settings. I have shown your video to nursing students during conversations about professionalism and leadership. Thank you for uploading to YouTube, Glenn!

  37. One problem is our desks are full, so we don’t have time for things like traditional training for new people and specific time isn’t made for it. We keep getting more work due to top management not understanding the time needed for our tasks and doesn’t believe the input on that so wants to time each task like we’re McDonalds. Then the new people can be too pushy about it and won’t wait till the time is right. Then they put off their seasoned co- workers and complain about it. As a new employee I accepted the environment the way it was and lasted a long time. Training is worth a lot because it pays bills so you have to be considerate about the trainers time. There’s only so much time…time towards training is time away from expectations on you. Until proper time is allotted you have to be savvy enough to survive. Backstabbing, tattling, troublemaking is all deflection from inability to do job. I surprisingly found women were much more trustworthy, and that the men were tattlers, liars, troublemakers, and petty…but our org may not be attracting good people. They don’t last.

  38. Awesome speech. I love the triple filter test. Gossiping is too common and is a form of social terrorism. The only time negative information is beneficial is if it's regarding something truly horrible and can be useful in knowing about it to gain awareness. Other then that, most gossiping is nitpicking and trying to spread negative opinion about someone else.

  39. Content was nothing new and basic common sense ! Add to that … this guy should do another TED TALK on ' The Art to speak in the most boring way !" … he's a natural on that topic !

  40. 7:20 what does he refer to by "fractionation"?? I imagine he means some process in group dynamics, but I'm curious about the particular terminology.

  41. Mmmm wait a minute sir, what if you have blatant bullying ,favouritism and corruption how do you deal with a total lack of tranparency. Are you suggesting that people in such environments bury their heads in the sand and play nice? I am sure you are referring to ideal situations not the other extreme.

  42. The speaker didn't finish the story about Socrates. The end is ' and this is how Socrates never learned that his wife was cheating on him.'

  43. Thanks that's such a wonderful idea I only wish the corporation I work for would have something like that I don't see it happening but it's a wonderful wonderful idea

  44. Really loved that bit at 2:50. I got this friend who uses this software called yoursafehub in his company and he says it's really effective tackling this issue.

  45. I disagree with this. A manager could implement this, but the everyone will continue to gossip and not tell the manager

  46. Doesn't matter the age. It's all about how well our teams can handle news, changes and criticism. Ego is a huge factor in this.

  47. He talks about backbiting which was mentioned by god and extremely prohibited in Islam and this was mentioned clearly in our Qura'an…its not a new information he just start talking about the negative impact about it whereas our prophet Mohammad had talked about the same before 1400 years

  48. If an employer treats some staff differently than others and refuses to see their wrong in this, then they themselves have to take full responsibility for creating a toxic work environment, which left unchecked will ultimately ruin their own company. This unsurprisingly will negatively impact their employees mental and physical health, even that of some of their strongest and most loyal employees!

  49. My number one rule is not to talk bad about anyone and to avoid listening to people who talk bad about others to me because I’m 100% sure those bad mouthing others to me are bad mouthing me to others.

  50. That wonderful company helps you to automate new employee onboarding process in inspiring way! You can easily create your own onboarding academy. Just open CASE .XCOURSE .XYZ

  51. But when you dealing with ignorance what can do nothing but to ignored them… Because is not worth it… Sooner or later they will tired!

  52. Even though the speaker talked about the definition , reasons and effects of gossip , he failed to define what could be done to stop it.

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