Let’s say you’re looking for a teaching position. You want to work in an excellent workplace—a healthy workplace, a workplace where you can flourish. What would that look like? What would be happening? When I ask people what a healthy workplace looks like, they say things like:
- I feel valued for the work that I do.
- People get along well.
- I get a chance to use and develop my skills.
- I have a say in decisions that affect me.
- It’s a fun place to be.
- I want to go to work every day.
I’ve never heard anyone say they want to go to work and experience mistrust, bullying, stress, and potential burnout. No one wants to be part of a workplace with high absenteeism, high turnover, and low morale. No one wants to be a part of what we call a “toxic workplace.” Sometimes we find ourselves in such an environment, not sure how we got here or how to get out. Instead of flourishing, we feel as if we’re barely surviving. What’s going on?
In their working paper for The Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training, Daryll Hull and Vivienne Read state: ”Quality working relationships represent the central pivot on which excellent workplaces are founded, underpinned by key variables such as good workplace leadership, clear values, having a say, and being safe” (3). “Quality working relationships”—that’s the key. Healthy workplaces are grounded in healthy relationships. What do healthy work relationships look like? How do relationships become unhealthy? How can we make unhealthy relationships healthier?