The one-sentence summary

The modern workplace has become a hotbed of toxicity, but this can be alleviated by intelligent mediation and conflict resolution.

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  • This is a guide to rebuilding respect and tolerance in the workplace.
  • Abusive bosses and entrenched cultures of discrimination have become more prevalent in the modern workplace than ever. Such behaviour is not simply wrong and damaging to its victims – it also results in reduced productivity, higher employee turnover, and can often leave a lasting stain on the reputation of an organization.
  • For the first time in history, we have five generations making up the workforce, each with a different take on work ethic and values. They are:
    1. Matures or traditionalists (born before 1946)
    2. Baby Boomers (1946-64)
    3. Generation X (1965-80)
    4. Millennials (1981-96)
    5. Generation Z (born after 1997)
  • The Toxic Triad are the organization, line managers and employees. Conflict between them creates winners and losers, squashes conflict, and uses a model of conversation as a point-scoring coup. Forced acceptance of the dominant viewpoint leads to groupthink. Patronizing, arrogant and condescending managers give orders instead of asking for feedback.
  • The three most difficult things for any of us to do are:
  1. Return love for hate
  2. Include the excluded
  3. Admit when we are wrong.
  • The circular firing squad refers to people and organizations who, when something goes wrong, automatically look for someone to point the finger at, blame or criticize. This destroys psychological safety and reduces openness.
  • Mediation to resolve this type of conflict takes on average 7 hours. This compares to seven days of line management time and seven days of HR time to conclude a grievance case.


  • Self-determination requires individuals to feel that they belong as a valued team member, feel competent and effective, and have autonomy and control in the workplace.
  • Diversity and inclusion are not the same thing. Diversity is about representation. Inclusion is about diversity being weaved throughout the fabric of the organization.
  • The effects of incivility are based on how the recipient feels. It can lead to negative impressions, affect productivity and damage relationships. Civility is about disagreeing without disrespect, seeking common ground as a starting point for dialogue, and listening past one’s preconceptions.
  • Being civil involves thin slices, including:
    • Saying please and thank you
    • Recognizing the work of others
    • Listening to colleagues
  • When you feel aggrieved at work, try some these approaches:
    • Remain calm and sleep on it if you can
    • Believe in yourself and your ability to do your job well
    • Have faith in your likeability factor
    • Feel confident and assertive, not downtrodden
    • Make sure others feel part of the team
    • Be punctual
  • “Positive thinking is how you think about a problem. Enthusiasm is how you feel about a problem. The two together determine what you do about a problem.” Norman Vincent Peale


  • There is so much conflict in businesses that this can read like a litany of toxic failure, but the suggested remedies make complete sense – if, and only if, we trust the people involved to enact resolution procedures maturely.