Maybe. Sometimes. There are three ways we’ve seen toxicity drop precipitously on teams we’ve worked with.
Some people exhibit toxic behaviors when they’re scared and don’t know how to handle that healthfully and productively. Frankly, we all do.
So, when we get new tools, they often replace the toxic ones.
1) Someone exhibiting toxic behaviors gets a new tool, and they drop the toxic one. They see the new tool is better, and they’re on board.
That said… There are two teams where we’ve heard from the leader who brought us in that while nearly everyone on the team loved their time with us and got a lot out of it, there was one person who believed it was a waste of time – one person who habitually exhibited toxic behaviors that demeaned their teammates (also thought our work with them was useless).
2) While that person’s toxic behavior didn’t stop (it did decrease on one of these two teams), the other members of the team used tools we gave them to “aikido” the attacks in a more productive direction. So while the toxins remained, the team was less poisoned thanks to new skills.
And then there are the teams we’ve worked with – 6 that we’ve heard from directly – where the person with a toxic habit they could not give up, simply could not remain, and left the company.
The leaders and teams in these cases no longer tolerated the toxic behavior in silence. They’d learned tools to address it, and had been convinced of the truth that, “Your company culture is defined by the worst behaviors you tolerate.” They spoke directly to the intolerable behavior assertively and with compassion. In some cases, they hired a coach. And they invited the person to change.
3) In these circumstances, we’ve heard stories of these folks leaving in one of two ways. a) Rather than change, the person quit. b) They did not change, and so they were let go.
In all three of these scenarios, toxicity either disappeared, or was significantly reduced – almost overnight.