In 2018 we surveyed over a 1000 people to find out how toxic and negative they felt that their previous and/or current working environments really are.
Here's everything we've learnt:
Table of Contents
Asking for help
Firstly, it is important to note that our survey was comprised of candidates from all over the world, but the majority of our participants were from the United States. The second largest group was from Canada, then New Zealand, then Australia and finally the United Kingdom.
Question 1. Have you ever worked in a team this is dysfunctional due to leadership?
We asked our participants: 'have you ever worked in a team that is dysfunctional due to leadership?'. A staggering 76.4% of our participants answered that they had, indeed, worked in teams that were dysfunctional purely due to that teams leadership.
Out of all the Aussie's in our sample, nearly 90% of them reported that their workplace teams had been dysfunctional due to leadership. Whereas only 59% of Britts felt that way. We found the responses to this question surprising and worrying; if the leadership of a team is dysfunctional, how can the rest of the team be functional and effective?
Question 2. Is the leadership within your team collaborative, empathetic and empowering?
We then asked our participants 'Is the leadership within your team collaborative, empathetic and empowering?', and only a tiny 12.8% of the participants surveyed felt that the leadership within their workplace teams was collaborative, empathetic and empowering 'all of the time'.
In terms of countries, the United Kingdom appeared to have the least collaborative and empowering leaders, with a shocking 29.4% of UK participants reporting that they NEVER feel like the leadership in their team is collaborative, empathetic and empowering. Whereas, only 5.4% of Australians felt like their leaders weren't collaborative, empathetic or empowering.
Again, the responses to this question surprised us. If only 12.8% of employees feel that their leaders are collaborative, empowering and empathetic all of the time, then it can only be these teams who fully support and trust each other. The other 87.2% of our participants are working in teams where they do not feel the leader involves them or empowers them to work better.
Question 3. Do you feel comfortable expressing your opinion in your team?
The expression of different opinions within a team often sparks healthy debates and initiates creative ideas. This is why we were surprised to find that when we asked our participants 'do you feel comfortable expressing your opinion in your team, only 25% of the people surveyed felt like they could express their opinion all the time and 27% of people felt that they could only express their opinion 'occasionally' to their team.
Participants aged 18 to 25 appeared to find it easiest to express their opinion, with 75% of them feeling comfortable in doing so, compared to the 63% of people aged 65 and over. The US trumped this one, with 31% of people feeling that they can comfortably express their opinions. Whereas, the Australians fell short with only a minuscule 13.5% of them feeling like they can express their opinion to their team all of the time all of the time!
This lack of expressing of opinions throughout teams will have a knock on effect on the team effectiveness because it will reduce the creativity of the team and reduce the number of possible routes that projects can take. It will also leave the employees feeling unsatisfied, uninspired and un motivated.
Question 4. Can people talk freely about issues and matters that are concerning them?
Similarly, we asked our participants 'can people talk freely about issues and matters that are concerning them?', and we found that, astonishingly, nearly 30% of people voted 'no'; meaning that they felt that they could not talk freely to their team about the issues and matters that are concerning them.
There was also a significant difference between male and female responses to this question , with 5% more males feeling more comfortable with expressing their issues and concerns to their team.
Question 5. How often does conflict occur within your team?
We asked our participants 'how often does conflict occur within your team?', and we were a little relieved to find out that the most common answer from our participants was 'once a month'; meaning that most teams across the world experience only a small amount of, possibly helpful and healthy, conflicts.
However, 17.4% of people did still answer that conflicts occur everyday, with United States workplace teams appearing to have the highest occurrence of conflicts. Conflicts that occur too regularly can actually be really unhelpful and unhealthy and reduce the teams effectiveness and productivity because time is wasted on resolving these conflicts, and a sense of hostility and unfriendliness is formed.
Question 6. Have you ever felt threatened, upset or distressed by your leaders actions towards yourself or others?
When asked 'have you ever felt threatened, upset or distress by your leaders actions towards yourself or others?', over half of our sample answered 'yes'. The New Zealanders appeared to feel the most threatened, upset and distressed, whereas our participants from the UK the appeared to feel it the least.
The fact that over half our sample have, at some point, felt threatened, upset or distressed by their leaders actions is worrying to say the least. Good leaders, who produce effective and productive teams, should make their employees feel safe, valued and reduce their psychological harm wherever possible. Teams with threatening leaders will undoubtably be decreasing in effectiveness.
We expected some gender differences in response to this answer, and although females were slightly more likely to feel threatened, upset and distressed compared to males, statistical tests showed that this difference was not significant.
Question 7. Could you ask all members of your team for help if you needed it?
When we asked our participants 'could you ask all members of your team for help if you needed it?', most participants reported that they felt as though they could only ask their managers for help.
However, the next most popular answer was the people felt that they could ask any member of their team for help, which is a positive!
Surprisingly, the United kingdom had the highest percentage of participants who felt like they couldn't ask anyone for help, but also the highest percentage of people that felt although they could ask anyone in their team for help, interesting!
If teams were promoting a sense of collaboration, trust and cohesiveness (the key to effective and successful teams!), then all members would feel that they could count on any member of their team to help them - so this results says mixed things about current workplace cultures.
Question 8. Is each individuals skills and abilities welcomed?
When asked 'Is each individuals skills and abilities welcomed?, 46% of our participants did, thankfully, feel that each persons skills and abilities was welcomed most of the time.
However, 43% of our participants did also feel that everyones skills were welcomed 'most of the time' within their team, which raises the question of why aren't they welcomed all of the time?
Workplace teams within the United Kingdom appear to be the most accepting of everyones skills, with 59% of the Britts surveyed feeling like skills were always welcomed; nearly 10% more than other countries.
Question 9. Do you feel that people in your team are deliberately discouraging or critical?
Our last questions was 'do you feel that people in your team are deliberately discouraging or critical?'.
We were shocked to find that 41% of our participants voted 'yes' to this question, but this does perhaps explain why some people felt that they couldn't express their opinions or talk freely about issues that are concerning them.
Again, the UK showed the lowest 'yes' score, with only 29.4% of Britts voting yes, and the other 70.6% voting that they DO NOT feel that their team are deliberately discouraging or critical.
Overall, although on the most part negative, these results weren't particularly surprising.
Many workplace teams are dysfunctional, ineffective and face troubles because of leadership problems - if the team leader(s) are poor, then the rest of the team will struggle to thrive.
The lack of gender and age differences was perhaps surprising.
However, this may mean that workplace discrimination between the ages and sexes is finally decreasing, and no one person is left to feel discriminated against with their team.
The amount of cultural differences that arose was in some places quite large.
This may be because different countries have different ways of managing and leading their teams, and different attitudes to how a team should work.
However, it is important to not that this sample is comprised of predominantly American participants, which may influences the results slightly.
These results do show that workplace culture all over the world still needs to be bettered.
Many people are still left feeling that leadership is inadequate and that their team cannot trust each other.
Hopefully, these findings demonstrate the need for improvement in team focused businesses all across the globe.