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Organisational Cortisol

There are many warning signs of a toxic culture (see my previous blog). When toxic cultures exist, there are high levels of organisational cortisol. Cortisol, also linked with stress, lowers the collective intelligence of a team and more broadly of an organisation where it is prevalent in large amounts.

Our ability to think strategically, in innovative ways or co-creatively disappears when we are stressed.

When we are working in a cortisol rich environment we don’t look forward to work and we live under a cloud of anxiousness that can become debilitating. There will be people in the team we don’t trust. There may be hidden infighting and a constant loss of knowledge as people move on; either because they are moved on or because it gets too much for them and they look for something easier and more pleasant.

The lower performers (or under performers) are not supported and the high performers have egos where they become addicted to being right, create a clique of people around them who support their views and beliefs and, in some cases, carry out their dirty work.

Passive aggressive behaviour is also rife. As a whole, the team is checked out and cannot see the bigger picture of how they fit within their organisation. The leader in this team may also demonstrate their authority over others and exert their seniority over those who report to them.

If this is just one team within an organisation the damage may be minimal. However, if this behaviour and culture spreads to more teams it becomes insidious behaviour and eventually creates a toxic culture throughout the entire organisation where bad behaviour is supported.

Creating a culture we want to be part of, and an environment we enjoy is so important to our mental wellbeing. Focusing on moving a toxic team towards a calm culture is imperative.

Helping team members re-engage and build trusting relationships with colleagues starts to reduce the levels of cortisol and increase the levels of oxytocin – the hormone created when we feel safe, trusted and engaged.

What are you doing to create calm teams?

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