Unhappy people often make their workplace the venue for the expression of displeasure – especially if they are in a leadership position and buffered from job security consequences. Everyone underneath them learns to brace for the storm. It passes and returns in predictable cycles.
The law of gravity explains the cascading effect. Unhappy leaders are tolerated, therefore sanctioned. When the behavior endured from the top of the organizational chart occurs at the bottom, employees are disciplined. Turnover happens at the bottom of the org chart when toxicity is modeled from the top. A punitive culture is solidified, along with its consequences.
There are always a handful of leaders whose wellness drives the culture of an organization. If they are healthy, their wellness shapes the vibe beneath them. If they are broken, however, the system moves to a position of constant readjustment to their volatility. If it were a marriage, it would be described as an abuse cycle.
Clinically, the four stages of an abuse cycle are: tension, incident, reconciliation, and calm. Tension escalates to an event. The event requires repair. The repair eases the tension. The relief gives way to the next rise in tension. This cycle eventually defines relationship culture.
In a perfect world, you would identify the key leaders that drive the organization’s wellness and devote whatever resources are needed to keep them healthy. If they are well, everyone is well. Call it coaching or call it counseling – intervening where it matters most benefits the whole. If the parents are well, the kids don’t have to brace for the next trauma.