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You don't have to be mad to work here – just poison-proof...

Pop art image of young woman in a gas mask

A quarter of the UK workforce has suffered conflict in the past year, according to the CIPD's 2024 Good Work Index report.

'But those with protected characteristics were more severely impacted,' says the report, 'leading to negative outcomes like lower job satisfaction, poorer mental health and higher levels of exhaustion. Experiencing conflict was also linked to poorer perceptions of senior leaders and managers’ roles in encouraging employee voice.'

Sadly, this is no surprise. It's that same old blindspot creating the same old toxicity we're all so used to.

When people talk about a toxic culture in an organisation, they usually mean that the workplace environment is damaging to the well-being and productivity of its employees.

Poor communication, overbearing/ micro/ no management, harassment, favouritism and discrimination, lack of transparency and accountability – a toxic culture can manifest in many ways. 

But at its core is always the same feature – a lack of regard for the basic needs of people, who are treated primarily as an economic, functional, task-focused resource, rather than living, breathing, complex human beings. The needs of the organisation, as defined by its leaders, are put ahead of the needs of its people (apart from the minimum specified by law). 

So the solution to a toxic culture is obvious – a major injection of humanity into the workplace. 

The big question is whether that’s possible from the leadership who are responsible for the toxicity – and the answer is, almost always, no. Unfortunately, they usually don’t even see it and/or are in denial that it exists.

That’s because focusing solely on the needs of the organisation – its various goals, financial and otherwise can, and often does, create a massive blindspot. 

And this can also be true of organisations that focus on the care and wellbeing of others; for example, in health and social care.

For all the compassion rightly focused on service users, there can sometimes be little or nothing left over for colleagues. Which is quite a paradox.

So the first step is often helping the leadership see their blindspot and working from there – if they’re willing.

Fortunately, some are.

But the trouble with a blindspot is that, until you see it – well, you're blind!

So why not sign up to our free pilot course on the 7 Habits of Creative Conversation and see – literally – what you might be missing?


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