External Toxic Social Media Influencers in the Workplace
Explore the definition of toxic behaviour, how to recognize toxic influencers, and strategies for addressing the impact of toxic social media influencers in the workplace.
Toxic social media influencers can have a detrimental impact on a company’s culture and productivity, even if they are not directly part of the organization. These individuals, who often have a large following on social media, can use their influence to spread negativity, rumours, and misinformation that can affect the morale and productivity of employees. In this blog post, we will explore the definition of toxic behaviour, how to recognize toxic influencers, and strategies for addressing the impact of toxic behaviour in the workplace.
Defining toxic behaviour
Toxic behaviour can take many forms, but it generally involves actions that harm the well-being of others. Some examples of toxic behaviour in the workplace include:
- Bullying: This can take the form of verbal or physical abuse, and can cause victims to feel intimidated and demeaned.
- Discrimination: This can include discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and other characteristics.
- Misogyny: This is the hatred or dislike of women or girls, and can manifest in the workplace as sexist comments or actions.
- Racism: This is the belief that certain races are superior to others, and can manifest in the workplace as discriminatory behaviour or microaggressions.
- Homophobia: This is the fear or hatred of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ and can manifest in the workplace as discriminatory behaviour or harassment.
These behaviours can have a serious impact on the well-being of employees. According to a study by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 35% of American workers have experienced bullying in the workplace, and an additional 15% have witnessed it. The same study found that bullying can lead to a range of negative effects, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Discrimination can also have a significant impact on employee well-being, with research showing that employees who experience discrimination are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression.
Recognizing toxic influencers
Toxic influencers can be difficult to identify, but they often share certain characteristics. Some signs that an individual may be a toxic influencer include:
- They spread divisive or harmful messages on social media platforms
- They have a tendency to blame others for problems, usually minorities, certain ethnic groups or people of a specific gender / sexual orientation.
- They are resistant to feedback and criticism and can label it banter or joking when confronted with it
- They engage in behaviours that are harmful to others, such as bullying or discrimination.
It’s important to note that toxic influencers can come from anywhere, they don’t have to be directly affiliated with the company. They may be public figures or even employees in other companies that have a large following on social media.
Toxic social media influencers can also use their influence to spread toxic banter in the workplace. This kind of banter is often used to undermine people who speak out against racism, sexism, and homophobia. It can manifest as jokes, comments or memes that are meant to trivialize or dismiss the importance of these issues. This type of banter can create a hostile work environment for those who are affected by it, and it can also discourage them from speaking out against discrimination and harassment.
Worth a read: The problem with banter – 3 Plus International
Strategies for addressing toxic behaviour
Once you have identified a toxic influence in the workplace, it’s important to take action to address their behaviour. Some strategies for addressing toxic behaviour include:
Setting clear boundaries and consequences: Communicate to employees that toxic behaviour is unacceptable, and establish clear boundaries for what is and is not acceptable in the workplace. Consequences for violating these boundaries should also be established and consistently enforced.
Fostering open communication: Encourage employees to speak up if they are experiencing or witnessing toxic behaviour. This can be done through anonymous reporting systems or regular company-wide meetings where employees can raise concerns.
Promoting a positive company culture: A positive company culture is one that values respect, inclusion, and diversity. By promoting these values, you can create a workplace environment that is less conducive to toxic behaviour.
Worth a read: 7 small steps towards a bias conscious culture – 3 Plus International
Establishing a social media policy: It’s important to have a clear social media policy in place that addresses the impact of external social media influencers on the workplace. This can include guidelines for employees on how to engage with these influencers and what to do if they are affected by their toxic behaviour.
The role of leaders
leaders adn managers play a critical role in addressing the impact of toxic influencers in the workplace. Some steps they can take include:
- Setting expectations: set clear expectations for behaviour in the workplace, and communicate these expectations to all employees. This can be done through a code of conduct or employee handbook.
- Modelling positive behaviour: lead by example and model the behaviour they expect from others. This includes treating all employees with respect and addressing any toxic behaviour that they witness.
- Providing support: provide support to employees who may be affected by toxic behaviour. This can include offering counselling services or Employee Assistance Programs
- Addressing toxic banter: address toxic banter in the workplace, and make it clear that it is not acceptable. This can be done through training, communication and setting boundaries and consequences.
The power of employee activism
Employees also play a crucial role in addressing the impact of toxic influencers in the workplace. By speaking up and taking action against toxic behaviour, employees can create a more positive and productive work environment. Some tips for employee activism include:
- Documenting incidents: It’s important to document any incidents of toxic behaviour, including the date, time, and details of the incident. This can be used as evidence if the behaviour continues or if it escalates.
- Speaking up: Don’t be afraid to speak up if you witness or experience toxic behaviour. It’s important to address the behaviour as soon as possible before it escalates.
- Building support: Reach out to others who may have also witnessed or experienced the toxic behaviour. By building support, you can have a stronger case when addressing the behaviour with management.
Toxic social media influencers can have a detrimental impact on a company’s culture and productivity, even if they are not directly part of the organization. By understanding the definition of toxic behaviour, recognizing toxic influencers, and implementing strategies for addressing toxic behaviour, companies can create a more positive and productive work environment. It’s important for management to lead the way by setting expectations, modelling positive behaviour, and providing support to employees. Employee activism also plays a critical role in addressing toxic behaviour, and employees should feel empowered to speak up and take action.
With a collective effort, companies can effectively counteract the behaviour of toxic social media influencers in the workplace.
Our Unconscious Bias Training Workshops will improve your workplace for everyone. Find out more HERE.
Sources of stats in the post
“The Cost of Workplace Bullying” Workplace Bullying Institute, https://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/cost/
“Discrimination’s effect on mental health” American Psychological Association, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/02/ce-corner-discrimination