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  • Brian Goldfeder

Can Toxic Work Cultures Affect Personalities?

In a previous blog post, I alluded to my experiences in a corporate job and the impacts of a toxic work culture on my personality. To refresh your memory, here is a snippet from that December 14 post:


"In my own role, I found myself fighting with people who had no regard for procedures and protocols, and to my own admission, I often came off as a bully at times, but that was the culture we had, where people had to bully one another in order to get things done and make their points. It got so bad that senior management was ready to fire me for, you guessed it, acting like them."


About a month after I left the job, I attended a pre-holiday happy hour with many former and current employees of that company. Pictures were taken and posted to Facebook. I happened to notice that another former employee, one who I often clashed with due to my aforementioned behavior, happened to "like" all of the photos - EXCEPT the one photo of me. It was then that I realized how bad a person I had become because of the work culture that had existed, and I knew I was a much better person than I came off to be.


As I start to think ahead to possible topics for my doctoral dissertation (which I will begin in about a year and a half), I wonder what kind of research has been done on the effect of toxic work cultures on employees' personalities. Are they different within a toxic work environment as opposed to a non-toxic environment (or in a non-work environment)? Do people act differently when influenced by managers who engage in workplace bullying or other toxic behaviors? So far, I'm not finding too much on this (but also wonder how such a study could be done and done accurately). Very intriguing dissertation idea, to say the least.


Needless to say, I have a lot of regrets about my time at my corporate job. I felt obliged to fit in with the company's toxic culture in order to succeed, and ironically, it was nearly my undoing (and in fact, could have been my ultimate undoing, but that's a topic for a future post). Many of my former colleagues have ostracized me as a result, but I still remain connected to others, although I find myself wondering how differently my personal relationship to those colleagues might have been under different circumstances. For what it's worth, I bet I'm not the only one whose personality may have been affected by the toxic culture.


One of the foundation principles of the Institute for Professional Coaching (iPEC) training program (which I am currently undergoing) reads: "All experiences are opportunities for growth." I only hope I can take my experiences with a grain of salt and apply them to study why this happened and make myself a better person (and hopefully others as well).


Be healthy!

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