• Those who check out may keep coming to work most days, but only in body, not in spirit. They live as organizational zombies. They find it emotionally safer not to try at all, rather than to try and risk being hurt by the culture.
• Those who act out find ways to undermine the organization’s objectives in word or deed. They pick arguments or they deliberately do inferior or even damaging work. Their decision to lash out is a defense mechanism. This is their way of coping with the pain inflicted by the culture in which they find themselves.
• Eventually, some people walk out to another company — or just leave in order to get themselves out of the toxic environment, even if they do not have a new job waiting. Surprisingly (and horrifyingly), many people do not walk out. A 2013 study by Professors Porath and Pearson showed that only 12% of those who experienced incivility at work left because of it. Instead, employees stay and continue checking out and acting out. They infect others, making it harder for them to positively engage. And so chronic change resistance sets in. Although many want positive cultural change deep down, they have become cynical and unwilling to consider what that might look like. Transforming such an environment to become a collaborative, supportive, creative workplace is a serious undertaking. It takes time and skill. But it is worthwhile. Gallup estimates that about half a trillion dollars of productivity are lost in the U.S. economy each year as a result of disengagement.
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