Culture, Wellness & Toxicity

I have been receiving a lot of positive comment from my most recent International Coaching News article, “Wellness – Where does it fit in a leader’s priorities?” (See )

This pulls together the implementation of Wellness programmes and an organisation’s culture. Whilst wellness programmes make good business sense, the article concludes “For the investment in wellness and wellness coaching not to be an expensive folly, leaders need to ensure … that they act with integrity and compassion.” Coaching too must up its game and make sure that leaders are acting with the best of intention and with greater awareness of their impact.

The misaligning of actions and their interpretation can subsequently lead to the toxification of a culture that I’m calling ‘Toxicity by Omission’ or its shadow, ‘Toxicity by Design’.

Toxicity by Omission occurs when a leader doesn’t take into consideration how their actions - or lack of them - will be construed or misconstrued. It could be omitting to communicate; omitting to address performance or behavioural issues; omitting to challenge or omitting to create clarity. This creates a void between intention and interpretation. Omission is the most common way that a toxic culture is inadvertently created. It is often a reflection of the time pressures that leaders are under.

To give an example. I was speaking with a European HRD who was telling me their business was going through a merger. There was only minimal risk of job loss to the staff for which this person had responsibility. However, the HRD was so busy dealing with the merger issues that they didn’t put through the annual salary increases and bonuses. It was only after we discussed it that they realized the potent impact this would have on moral. Toxicity by Omission.

Toxicity by Design is (hopefully) less common and occurs when a leader knows what the consequences are but continues for the wrong reasons. It could be driven by narcissism, greed, ambition, need to dominate or believing their own publicity. So the business that was ruled by a narcissistic leader forced good people to develop the wrong behaviours – falsifying, pressuring staff and miscommunicating.

Executive coaching must create the framework for leaders to challenge the status quo. Leaders may not be able to solve all the issues affecting their business, but must address the environment, workload, politics and culture within which their people work. There is no room for complicity in poor peoples’ decisions. This will then enable the full ROI of wellness coaching to be felt throughout the organisation.




Ring any bells in your organisation? Contact me to discuss on or +44 (0)7968 763312.