Good For Others Podcast

Maintaining Civility in the Workplace: Prevent Toxicity with Catherine Mattice Zundel

May 12, 2020 John Valencia / Catherine Mattice Zundel Season 1 Episode 11
Good For Others Podcast
Maintaining Civility in the Workplace: Prevent Toxicity with Catherine Mattice Zundel
Chapters
Good For Others Podcast
Maintaining Civility in the Workplace: Prevent Toxicity with Catherine Mattice Zundel
May 12, 2020 Season 1 Episode 11
John Valencia / Catherine Mattice Zundel

Everyone deserves to work in a toxic-free workplace.  Good For Others Host John Valencia and special guest Catherine Mattice Zundel chat about how to maintain civility in the workforce and prevent a toxic environment to ensure reduced turnover, engaged and loyal employees, and better quality and quantity of work.

Catherine Mattice Zundel, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, founded Civility Partners in 2008 as a result of working in a toxic environment and has since served a huge array of clients with consulting, training, and coaching services. She’s written three books, one of which Ken Blanchard called, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic” of workplace bullying. Catherine’s also been cited in such media outlets as Forbes.com, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, and USA Today, and appeared as a guest on such venues as NPR and CNN.

Show Notes Transcript

Everyone deserves to work in a toxic-free workplace.  Good For Others Host John Valencia and special guest Catherine Mattice Zundel chat about how to maintain civility in the workforce and prevent a toxic environment to ensure reduced turnover, engaged and loyal employees, and better quality and quantity of work.

Catherine Mattice Zundel, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, founded Civility Partners in 2008 as a result of working in a toxic environment and has since served a huge array of clients with consulting, training, and coaching services. She’s written three books, one of which Ken Blanchard called, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic” of workplace bullying. Catherine’s also been cited in such media outlets as Forbes.com, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, and USA Today, and appeared as a guest on such venues as NPR and CNN.

John Valencia :

Welcome to the Good For Others podcast. I'm your host John Valencia. And with me today is our producer Samantha Harrod. Hey guys. Today's guest is Catherine Mattice Zundel. Catherine is a strategic HR consultant who assists organizations in building positive culture through HR practices. Katherine is a widely recognized thought leader and is passionate about employers responsibility to create the opportunity and the environment for employees to thrive. So welcome, Catherine. Thank you. To kick off today's podcast. I'm going to ask you a few lightning round questions to get to know you a little bit better. How does that sound? Oh, all right. All right, here we go. We'll start easy. chocolate or vanilla, Vanilla Ice a month without your car or a month without the internet.

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Ooh, I don't know a month without my car. Probably Probably

John Valencia :

aquarium or Zoo aquarium, be chased by 10,000 scorpions or 10. Lions?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Can I opt out of both?

John Valencia :

sunrise or sunset?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

sunset? I'm not a morning person.

John Valencia :

Would you rather be sticky or itchy for the rest of your life?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Sticky? Yeah,

John Valencia :

yes. So I'll try to think about that earlier. I was like, I don't know which one's worse. All right. And on a more serious note, who or what inspires you?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

I'm inspired by other inspirational people. I aspire to be inspirational myself and have a positive message out there in the world. So really inspired by people who are doing similar things. I'm always looking up to those types of individuals.

John Valencia :

That's wonderful. So today's topic is overcoming a toxic work culture. Mm hmm. We've all had those before. Mm hmm. So to start, tell us what a toxic work culture is. I think there's people probably driving their car or however they're listening or like, Okay, sounds probably something I've dealt with. Yeah, it looks exactly from your experience. What is a toxic work culture mean?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Well, for starters, I think it depends on the person. You know, we all have different levels of tolerance. So for some people, if there's gossip in the organization that's going to feel toxic or bullying, that's toxic, but you know, we all have different tolerance levels. I can tell you what I see as an HR consultant is when it's very damaging, you know, people are upset and unhappy. They cry when I speak to them, they're feel abused. So that for me, that's obviously my world and toxicity, but I'll just say if you are listening, and you feel like there's some toxicity around you, then it's probably there. Yep. And that's the answer.

John Valencia :

Well, that's a great segue into sharing A little bit about your background. What brought you into this world of focusing on helping cultures and different work environments?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Yep. So I was the Director of Human Resources for an organization and found myself working with a bully. This person was an Uber micromanager. He yelled, he did not trust people. He just he was hard to communicate with. And I was very frustrated by this and I personally felt bullied by him. And then as the director of HR, I was dealing with HR problems. He created lots of turnover in his department, specifically, lots of counseling employees who were dealing with them lots of time talking to the President about resolving this situation. And while I was going through all of that, I started getting my master's degree and ended up writing a paper on workplace bullying for one of my classes and just was really in everything I was reading it and is frustrated and depressed and anxious as I was it was very therapeutic to learn about it from an academic place. So everything I did in grad school was on bullying, I kind of joke, I have a master's degree in workplace bullying. And I wrote my thesis on bullying and dedicated it to the post at Nazi, which is what we call bully. And then pretty quickly after grad schools, wrote a book and started a business and I just knew it was a problem that needs to be solved. That's wonderful.

John Valencia :

So one of the constant themes that we've had throughout most of our podcasts is fear. And I think there might be some fear also associated in in someone who might be experiencing bullying and doesn't know they don't know what to do next. So what would you say to someone who's experiencing that? Or even just identifying, am I in a toxic work environment? What would you say to someone like that?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Well, of course, it's very scary to feel Like you're being mistreated at work, because, you know, you have to pay our bills, we have responsibilities, society tells us that you're supposed to have a nine to five. It's scary to feel like I have to report this to HR, for example, you know, what are they gonna do what's gonna happen? And also you feel abused there in the interactions, and that's creating fear. It's very lonely place to be bullied at work, because a lot of people don't understand it. When you go home and tell your family about it, they may not really get it. So yes, it is a very scary place and it takes a lot of courage to step up. This first step is to educate yourself about bullying. Because until you do that, you're going to feel like you're kind of going crazy. You really feel like what's happening is this real I'm an adult why so you know, it's very confusing. So really just spending some time learning about bullying and what's going on? is a good tip and I forgot your original question.

John Valencia :

I think it's just understanding or helping someone to say, Well, what can I do next? For me, I think it would be one, you'd be one of you would want to be heard. Mm hmm. I hear you saying, you know, you may go home and maybe the people around you don't necessarily understand what you're experiencing. But there's a simple term, you're being bullied and that's not okay. Right. And so if that's the case, and you want your voice to be heard, but maybe your leadership is not supportive of that, what would you suggest someone do in that situation?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Yeah. So step number one is to document the interactions. And here's the key. being bullied is very emotional. And of course, when you're thinking about it or talking about it, it's emotional. But you have to focus on the facts, the things that actually happen, you know, so you're in a staff meeting, and this is what was said and how it was said and who was there. No, that can be hard because you are coming from an emotional place. But if you can document it, and then present that to HR or manager or leadership and really focus on the bullying behavior, and sort of, in doing that making a business case for solving it, and that's how they're going to respond or be interested in responding, if you can say, you know, I've witnessed people gossiping about it, or being distracted by it, or I saw this happen with a customer. Unfortunately, our emotions and how we feel aren't compelling to leadership to change, it has to be the business case. So that's really, the best advice I can give you is to document it and speak about it to leadership in a way that's factual and rational.

John Valencia :

I can imagine there's also some people who would be fearful of retaliation Absolutely. From their co workers, maybe leadership themselves because then they feel at fault for allowing this to happen. Absolutely. What do you say to someone about the retaliation aspect? Have it,

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

I'm not gonna lie, it's a very real possibility, a good thing to do is to check your corporate policy handbook. Not that policies are the end all be all, but you'll understand if your leadership even knows about bullying or cares about it. If you find it in your policy, you know, maybe you have an anti bullying policy, which is a sign that HR is at least aware of this. But I'm not gonna lie retaliation is a very real possibility. So with that said, when you go to leadership or decide to bring it to their attention, you've got to have a plan. You know, what if they don't give you what you're looking for? What if they discount you What if they tell you to deal with it and get over it? What's your next step? And so that's a really, you know, you really have to think it all the way through before you tell leadership about it, because it's very possible that they won't resolve it.

John Valencia :

And maybe even the best result is that person may finding employment elsewhere. Exactly,

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

yeah. So that's always some advice I give as well. So, if you feel like you're being abused at work, and you don't feel like your leadership cares about it, then you don't need to be there. They're not giving you their best, there's no reason for you to give them your best. You are the only person who can protect your dignity. You know, nobody cares about you like you. a paycheck is not worth giving up your dignity and self respect. And bullying is very damaging. And I have personally talked to many people over the years who, you know, the situation got so bad for them. By the time they did leave, they were fairly damaged. And, you know, I find it difficult to sort of get back into the real world. I mean, it's really crippling, for it to go on for a long period of time.

John Valencia :

I guess more fear comes into the layer of, well, I've worked for this organization for a long time. If I leave, that's going to To be harder, I'm gonna have to start all over again. But if this toxic environment still exists, I mean, would you recommend that that person actually just look elsewhere? Because I know that there's a lot of other great cultures and less toxic work environments to go, you know, enjoy and spend your time we spend how many hours a week? Yes, we should be around people that actually we like and get along with, right?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Yeah. Here's what I'll say. It's bothering you more than you know. So if you're listening and you're thinking, gosh, I am bullied, I can tell you that whatever you feel about it is 1000 times more than what you recognize. And you won't know that until you leave. And so I'll tell you my own story. I'll finish my story. So my performance got so bad where this person, you know, I sort of let them affect me so much that I was barely showing up to work. I was calling in sick, I wasn't working when I was there. I was just trying to get through grad school honestly. And my thought was once I get out of grad school, I'll quit. Well got so bad that my boss came to me one day and he sits down in my office and he says, Catherine, what's happening to you? You used to be my a player, star performer, I could trust you with anything. You're so different. And I burst into tears. And I just found myself saying, I hate this person. And I hate that you let him do it, and why won't you fix it, and I just found myself giving my 30 day notice. And I'm just like, I clearly don't need to work here anymore. I'll give it 30 days, so I can try to get some things in order before I go, I don't wanna leave you hanging. And he said, if you're that unhappy, you should leave now. And so he basically fired me and he said, I'll give you a good recommendation, because I know you have it in you to be a good employee, but you should leave and so he watched me pack my things and I exited with my tail between my legs. However, I had no idea how I was going to pay my rent. I had no idea what was gonna happen next, and I felt amazing and I can literally Say literally the monkey crawled off my back. I just on the drive home. I lived in Hillcrest at the time and I just remember the colors were brighter and the billboards were brighter and like everything was so much brighter and better, even though I had no idea what I was going to do next and it worked out and it will work out.

John Valencia :

That's wonderful. All right, we have to take a quick commercial break. We'll be right back.

Commercial :

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Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Yeah, in fact, I collected some stories and put them all in a book called stand up, speak out, because there is a lot of doom and gloom when it comes to workplace bullying, lots of stories online about people's lives being crushed, you know, so I wanted to change the conversation a little bit. So I put out a call for positive empowering stories and ended up with 23 that are in this book. And what I found fascinating was that every single one of these people who went through a horrible experience and now are saying I feel better and good and happy with my life, the world One thing that they all had in common was there's this pivotal decision making moment where they decide that something's going to be different. And so I just wanted to put that out there that that that's what you have to do. And in fact, one of these ladies in the story, she still works where she was, but she decided that she was going to make a difference. And so she's a gay, black woman in a military world. And she's decided I'm, it's up to me to change this. And so she's perfectly happy fighting the good fight. I mean, she's taken it on, but that was her decision. And so what what we've found through these stories is that what's successful is probably not going to be that you're going to go see an attorney and Sue and you're going to get a million dollars. Like you have to decide what success looks like, looks like for you. And maybe it's that you leave and you go find something better. Maybe it's that you join anti baleen type of organization you know, so that that's the real key is making that decision.

John Valencia :

And I think for some people may be listening, you know, it is for me, you think of bullying is just something that happens when you're younger. But that happens the workplace indeed. And there are tools and professionals out there to help anyone in those situations. I would love to hear more about your those 23 stories but amazing that those people that were brave enough to step up to acknowledge it and to stand up for themselves in that process to really transform their lives. That's, that's wonderful. Yeah. So let's talk a little bit about culture. We know that culture eats strategy for dinner.

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

I think that's a book too.

John Valencia :

But it's true. It's true. And I think when someone is experiencing, say bullying or or toxic environment, where they're spending all their time with in every single day

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

can that change culture can change. Absolutely. But it certainly takes leadership being on board with that.

John Valencia :

Have you seen good? Can you tell us about some examples of maybe an organization that's really seen that as an issue and then has made strides in that process to kind of write the ship?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Yeah. Give me a couple. So one is that I am actually a specialist in executive coaching for bullies. So I've I've really come full circle and for bully before bullies, yes. Okay. So what happens is they've finally crossed the line after years of bullying. Finally, the organization's decided this can't happen anymore. But usually people who will bully are high level highly valued. So the organization does want to save them. And so I get called in to coach these individuals, because I understand them more than they understand themselves. And so I have a lot of success stories of so The way coaching works is I interview people about their behavior. And then I coach for a while, and then I re interview. And it's really a cool process to do these interviews where people are damaged and hurt. And just like, I don't know, if you can help this person, they're horrible. And then six months later, I re interview and they're saying, Thank you, you've really made a difference. My life is so much better. They're different. So that's a that's a really cool process. So I have many success stories of actually changing the behavior of that one person. In terms of culture, same thing and in terms of how it starts. Usually I get called in as a toxic work environment expert, because something's happened. You know, somebody went public with the me to movement or something. So for example, I was working with an IT department at a university. A woman had been telling her manager for a while that she felt discounted, she was the only woman on her team. He did what a lot of managers do and said, that sounds like a conflict. You know, you deal with it. Doesn't sound like something I should be dealing with. And so, over time, it got worse. she filed a complaint didn't get what she was looking for went public on. You know, it's like the height of me too. She went public with their story. And so they hired me. We did a climate assessment. It was a horrible culture. She, you know, I'm glad that she went public and sort of forced them into it. But the culture was awful. I interviewed people who cried, I cried a lot myself talking to these people. And after about a year, we redo our climate assessment and found that we had made a huge change, just not to get too statistical, but one example was, women were reporting on our first survey that on a scale of one to five in terms of how often they were bullied, they were at a four on average, and men were at a two. And after a year, the women and Matt men had both come down to 1.5 or so. So we had really eliminated the Boolean so that that kind of stuff is just really satisfying.

John Valencia :

So if they're not lucky to have someone like you to help make that culture better, what are some of the long term effects of a toxic culture?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Well, research over the last 40 years is very clear. And I've seen it to people who feel bullied or abused or harassed at work, experience anxiety, depression, stress, that causes physical problems. You know, stress causes headaches and heartaches and stomach aches and heart disease is even been associated with being bullied. Even PTSD that's hot in the research right now, lots of real clear research that being bullied at work can actually cause PTSD, which is very profound. You can go to war or work and get the same traumas. So unfortunately, even stories suicide so it the long term effects are very real. And the laws haven't caught up to what we know about bullying yet bullying is legal in the United States, but You know, it is quite damaging.

John Valencia :

So that's great that you just brought up the legal piece of it. So organizations can get away with it. Mm hmm. Pretty much. So is there anything on the horizon that might change that in the future? Any sort of laws or people's movement? Maybe I hope, yes. more of us in the world.

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. So, in California, we have the harassment prevention training that we're required to do. And that does include a little piece on abusive conduct. So that's kind of an in so hopefully, as that's being talked about, employees who feel like they're at the targets of abusive conduct will come forward. There are a couple laws being looked at in several different states. So one is a healthy workplace bill that's been around for a long time, but it's not yet passed ever. And then there's a new bill that's coming out called the dignity at Work Act, which is what my I'm the founder of a nonprofit and we are part of that. So that's our bill that we're trying to get past. So yeah, there's laws on the horizon and plenty of attorneys who are interested in the topic of bullying. It certainly comes up in court cases now. So yeah, we're moving in the right direction.

John Valencia :

Now, for an organization looking to create the space to have a dialogue. What do you suggest that they do is kind of their first steps in order to make that happen for them?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

make room for emotion. So lots of organizations say, well, we do our harassment prevention training, we have a policy there's a poster on the wall that says no harassment, you know, but remember that being harassed or bullied is a very emotional experience, and it's very vulnerable to come forward with that complaint. I'm convinced that one of the reasons A lot of people don't ever complain is that we're supposed to, you know, we're not supposed to cry at work. You're not supposed to be the most At work, and so by asking people to come forward, you're asking them to step outside of societal and cultural norms, not to mention, be the squeaky wheel throw themselves in front of a bus, whatever you call it. So I think that's the first step is for managers and supervisors and organizations to make it okay for emotions. And that's a cultural change, you know, in and of itself.

John Valencia :

I know I've worked at some places that have done kind of a climate survey or some sort of assessment, do recommend folks maybe start there and kind of get them, you know, and nonnamous submissions from their employees to just kind of get a pulse of what's happening.

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Yeah, yeah, we do that all the time. Yeah, we come into a climate assessment. I do recommend that part of the assessment include interviews with employees, so we do random we randomly select interviews to interview. We randomly select employees to interview and a lot of sort of package. Engagement surveys, for example, don't necessarily do that. But that's where we find all of the nuggets about what's really going on. So I think that's got to be a big part of it. But yeah, climate assessment, gives you some benchmarks, helps you understand what's happening, and then you can create plans to change the survey results from there.

John Valencia :

All right, we have to go to commercial break, we'll be right back.

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John Valencia :

Welcome back to the good brothers podcast. Today we are talking about overcoming a toxic work environment. And Catherine is really an ex Spirit has opened my eyes to the world of bullying in the workplace, and the ways that you can actually eliminate some of those toxic things happening. What are some of the other resources people could do at this point after hearing from you? What would you suggest they go next?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Well, by website, I can put that plug in or so we have something called engagement in a box, which is just over 50 sort of documents and slides and resources for starting to work towards building an engaged workforce or a happy workforce. culture can feel pretty intangible and scary and how do you change that? So we tried to make something sort of simple to get you started my book back off your kick ass guide to ending bullying at work as for targets and it really talks about a lot of what we were talking about earlier kind of navigating that conversation with HR and your different options and things that you can suggest to HR in that conversation. I have a book called seeking civility, which is for leaders and managers kind of how to change the culture from toxic. And then my third book is stand up, speak out against workplace bullying, which is that collection of stories. So that's one, but those are several resources. But I'll just say, you know, culture does feel intangible. At the very least, if you're a business owner or a manager, you can create some strategic sort of action items around culture and don't think of it as some big thing you can't overcome. You know, what can you do over the next 30 days to start giving people the impression that you're interested in a respectful work environment, for example, even just at a staff meeting, talking about respect and what does that mean to people? So the more you start bringing positivity into the forefront of the conversation, the harder it is to add up against that, because the you know, it becomes peer pressure to act in the ways that everybody's talking about. So it doesn't have to be overwhelming. Wow,

John Valencia :

wonderful. This is really, really great stuff. For our final segment, we want to play a quick little game that we call three wishes. So let's imagine there's a genie here in this room, and he's going to grant you three wishes, what would your first wish be?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Well, I'm going to say that everybody treats everybody with respect at work, but then I'd be out of a job, but I guess that's okay. Great, right. It would be great, or at least that everybody has an open mind to understanding more about their interactions and being self aware. So that'd be wish, number one.

John Valencia :

What about wish number two?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

You know, I've always thought that I would make a good like the profit kind of a guy you know, on TV show like a Netflix show where you have some horrible culture and I get to come in and change it. That would be cool. So that's it. Nobody by second wish.

John Valencia :

That's a good way. What about your third wish?

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

That my family is healthy and happy and good?

John Valencia :

Yeah, that's nice. Alright, so that about wraps up today's podcast. But before we go tell everyone where they can go to check out your books.

Catherine Mattice Zundel :

Yep, stability partners calm my website. You can look me up online. Google me, send me a carrier pigeon or, you know, smoke signal. I'm everywhere. So yeah, civility partners calm.

John Valencia :

All right. Well, thank you so much, Catherine, for being here today. And sharing your experiences and leadership development and helping to make this positive work environment that so many of us need. Thank you. I really appreciate it. Before we end today, I do want to offer everyone the opportunity to win one of three of Katherine's books we have back off seeking civility and stand up speak out and if you share our posts of this podcast on LinkedIn, we will pick three winners and you'll receive one of her books. So check it out and share, share, share. All right, and thanks to everyone for tuning in today. For more information about our conversation, check out our website at good for others.org. As always, we hope you heard something today that inspires you to do good for others.