Yes, Toxic Jobs are Health Hazards, but Non-Toxic Jobs aren't the Answer

Jeanet Wade
September 8, 2022

You may have already seen the news. This week the Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, said what we all know: toxic workplaces are bad for our health.

Of course we knew that. But now we have research from the American Psychological Association and a Stanford University psychologist that confirms it, and guidance from “America’s Doctor” on what it means and what is necessary to combat it. As one Linked In user said in response to this article from the Linked In news team, “Obvious-yes; however, a public stand by the Surgeon General on this issue is huge.”

And it is huge. It puts the centuries-old issue of whether or not employers should have to care about team health right up there with conversations about nicotine, alcohol, and most recently, Covid.

One excerpt in this Wall Street Journal article really stood out to me. “Recommendations in the surgeon general’s release include asking workplace leaders to listen to workers about their needs …”

Yes, meeting human needs is central to this conversation. It is a conversation I’ve been having with clients, colleagues, and my community for a long, long time. In fact, those conversations are the reason I created the framework of The 6 Facets of Human Needs™ and why I wrote the book, The Human Team®. But in my mind, it isn’t a question of whether or not employers and leaders are responsible for team health, it’s a question of why we don’t recognize the wins that happen for everyone when employers and leaders make team health a top priority.

Just like rehabbing the body after being exposed to a toxic environment, removing the toxicity is only the first step to optimal health. Making team health a top priority doesn’t stop at creating non-toxic workplaces.

But “not toxic” can’t be our goal.  We can do better than that. It’s about creating workplaces, cultures, and leadership practices that not only promote team health, but are also set up to ensure optimal health and performance. It’s about designing workplaces and cultures that naturally activate human energy and invite and reward the best that humans have to offer. It’s about creating self-actualized teams of humans that not only produce more, innovate more, engage more, and ultimately create more value during the time they are employed, but also experience greater fulfillment and satisfaction as a result.

The framework released in the Surgeon General’s report lists growth opportunities, mattering at work, connection to community, protection from harm, and employee influence on workplace decisions as essential to a healthy workplace, all elements included in my framework of The 6 Facets of Human Needs™. And I know that many workplaces don’t even provide those basics, as shown by the survey conducted by the American Psychological Association in April and May reporting that out of more than 2,000 workers 18% described their workplace as somewhat or very toxic, and 30% said they had experienced harassment, verbal abuse or physical violence at work, including from customers. But basics aren’t enough if we want to create a solid foundation for increased revenue and exponential growth. The framework of The 6 Facets of Human Needs™, or what we often refer to as "the 6 Cs", is designed not to prevent toxicity, but to promote optimal team health.

A factor that is not addressed in the Surgeon General’s framework, and one that my research and experience shows is vital to healthy, high-performance, and high-satisfaction human teams, is acknowledging, welcoming, and rewarding each human being as a whole. Embracing “human moments,” honoring the human experience, and recognizing and providing for the needs that every human has to fully reach their potential in terms of achievement and fulfillment. As I outlined in this article, there is a real cost associated with not meeting the needs of the humans on your team. But when as leaders make it a priority to apply The 6 Facets of Human Needs™ at work the result is psychologically safe workplaces, fully engaged and activated people without the need to micromanage or use fear and pressure to drive performance, and a human environment that produces human teams that are not only healthy, they’re self-actualized and happy.

Wondering where to begin learning and implementing The 6 Facets of Human Needs™ at work? Take the Team Health Assessment.

You can also reach out to me to chat about having a Human Team Activator come in and help you activate the potential on your team and create a culture where humans can truly shine.