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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

The #1 toxicity factor at work

So this is the start of a shorter (medium?) version of Wise Wednesdays while I test if some of the writing momentum can be put into the book. It’s officially three years since I took a career leap into the unknown: beyond a structured, institutional career into entrepreneurialism. Yesterday, I was at a meeting on reinventing healthcare public services. Last week, a client was reflecting on the role of work culture on her career decisions. She’s worked in some of the most pressured and prestigious organisations in the world including alongside the military in fragile states. She was clear that one of her core values is collaborativeness. This clarity has played a key role in her decision to take a career leap to create something that works better for her. I was reminded of the aphorism that People don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. I would rephrase to: People don’t leave jobs, they leave work cultures. Interestingly, research by Google and others has found that the best performing work teams didn’t deliver because of talent, resources or money. Out of 250 factors they examined, the common denominator for outstanding teams was psychological safety. Those that lacked it, didn’t do so well… What is Psychological Safety? [Read on or watch the video]

You’ve probably come across an environment with a lack of psychological safety i.e. an environment where competitiveness dominates (people play a zero sum game, hog credit, talk over one another, devalue each other to improve their own standing, claim superior knowledge through snide criticism, etc. - there’s a constant sense of threat and manipulative politicking). Imposter Syndrome thrives here! If you’re fortunate, you may have experienced an environment built on psychological safety i.e. one where individuals can take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other. “We don’t solve our problems, we grow larger than them.” – Carl Jung. The rest of the top 5 factors for outstanding teams were Dependability; Structure and Clarity; Meaning or work; and Impact of work. We spend so much time trying to prove our technical skill and specialist knowledge in solving problems. But what might be most needed for teams and individuals to thrive in 21st century complexity is completely different… What we might really need is to outgrow industrial work cultures and embrace kinder, more humane principles of relating that make us feel valued and unlock creativity – a radical transformation of our social matrix.

Have a great week,


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