Updated: Feb 7
By Mel Francis, Lighthouse Associate-Elect
When was the last time that you worked in a toxic environment? Maybe it was your last job, maybe it was recently. Unfortunately, if you have never worked in a toxic environment, you are in a minority. A report in HR magazine found 4 in 5 HR managers had worked in toxic workplace environments. I personally remember working in toxic environments or with toxic people, as have many people I have spoken to over the years, including my colleagues who have worked with many people all over the world. Why is this so common? What is going on? And what can be done about it?
Just How Big is The Problem?
A friend and Lighthouse partner Jatinder Singh recently wrote an article about how big the problem of workplace toxicity is and how much it costs businesses. According to recent research, toxic employees are costing average companies of 1,000 people over $1.2 million per year, (£885,000). What is this cost? It can be churn, the cost of recruiting new people who have left the toxic environment or the cost of HR dealing with internal disputes, for instance between a toxic manager and their subordinates. Or alternatively, there can be legal costs of disputes through harassment, malicious communications and trolls especially if the toxic person has intended reputation damage to the business. Trolls were said to cost UK businesses up to £30,000 a year on average.
The Devastating Effect of Online Trolling for Businesses
An absolutely staggering 52% of UK businesses stated that they were worse off than last year because of the devastating impact online trolling has had on their business. The reputation of companies are being utterly decimated by online trolls, with 1 in 5 of those being worried that the toxicity and negativity given unfairly online could destroy their businesses entirely. It means that more and more business owners are taking measures to protect their businesses, sometimes that will be an appropriate online strategy or it will be through holding accountable the trolls that are in their own workplace and taking action against those who are attempting to destroy their livelihood. Thanks to social media, to the troll, people’s livelihoods are a free for all.
What is Our Response at Lighthouse Global?
Lighthouse International Group, now known as Lighthouse Global, has been attacked online for 12 months in a hateful smear campaign coordinated by two ex-associate elects turned trolls as well as toxic families of those we support to heal from often the worst kinds of abuse. This has caused a huge loss in time, money and effort, upwards of £1million, as we have worked with our solicitors to find the best way of overcoming this issue as a business and a community. A smaller company without the resources or manpower to challenge a hateful campaign like this, especially one sustained for such a long period of time, might not have been able to survive such a deliberate attack by online trolls. And as we found, many businesses in fact don’t survive as was the case for Sara Christensen.
In October 2019, Christensen made an ill-advised post in relation to a job applicant which was only seen by 57 people before she was asked to remove it by the applicant, which she did. The applicant later shared it on Twitter, where it reached 500,000 views. Trolls proceeded to tear Christensen’s business apart. Her podcast got slammed with bad reviews and soon she was “doxed” meaning her personal address was leaked, and she received violent death threats which prompted her and her family to sell their house and move repeatedly so they couldn’t be traced. Her advice is “don’t think it can’t happen to you, even if your social media is inoffensive”. This article on EveryWoman.com shares a devastating story of how she tried to expand her business on YouTube and was consistently torn apart by trolls, to the point of deleting her social media, impacting her business.
Not All Attacks Come From Outside Your Gates
Being trolled from outside your company is bad enough, and perhaps you might even think that you have no control over that (although there are lots of things you can do to hold your online abusers accountable, contact us to learn more!) However, what if the people who are trolling your company and tarnishing the reputation of your organisation are on your payroll? Or were on your payroll and they are disgruntled that they no longer are? Please see our other articles on the subject, and read more about the pathology of a troll and what sorts of behaviours we can expect from Internet trolls.
This is not about censoring anyone’s free speech to express their opinion or control what someone does in their spare time, it is about holding people accountable for the damage they do whether they are on the clock or not. The wild west of the internet means that people feel at liberty to behave how they like without caring for the livelihoods of others, and then they carry this into the workplace. Think about it, if someone is trolling a business or another person online, saying malicious and damaging things to another person, do they take that home? How do you know that your colleague or manager or other toxic employees are not only making your work life challenging but are also being spiteful and hateful trolls and trying to destroy someone online in their spare time?
What Can Be Done?
Companies are losing their talent in a way that could be avoided if they knew about how to safeguard that talent by equipping themselves to stand up to toxic behaviours and trolls inside and outside their company walls. But ultimately they are losing their credibility with the people who would really care about their business and nurture it to truly excel. Ultimately, it is not just a company’s responsibility but it is in their interest to nurture their business. They have a responsibility to do something about trolls inside and outside of their business. Although many don’t know how. From the aforementioned study into toxic workplaces, one in ten (10%) feel the landscape is becoming trickier to manage and one in eight – 12% – of those affected say they don’t know how to make things right. But it is crucial and vital that they do. After all, what is the use of having an incredible benefits package if you are allowing your workplace to become intolerable or if you allow your business to crumble because you won’t take action against trolls, both online and in person?
Lighthouse Global’s initiative Business Against Trolling is supporting businesses and business owners who have become victims of online trolling which is severely damaging them, their family and their business to become better equipped to handle online trolls. It has become clear to us that this is still uncharted territory for a lot of businesses, especially as trolls are being held increasingly accountable by law. We are here to counsel and mentor individuals within organisations, and business leaders who may be struggling to help reclaim their business from toxic influences as well as fostering healthier workplace environments. To find out more, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.