Is Erdogan’s theory the solution for organisations?

Can the events being played out in Turkey, as Erdogan rids the country of toxic elements, be something that can be mirrored in the workplace?

The Turkish President has ruthlessly purged his government, the army, the court, the media, and all aspects of society since the failed coup attempt. The way he has gone about it, is a lesson in how to eliminate those factors that are a threat to the success of the organisation – whatever that may be – to operate.

Every tier of the organization is dealt with, from the top to the bottom, but an important factor is that it starts at the top. This is often the hardest place to make such cuts, but without doing a root and branch purge, it will ultimately be futile, as the bad elements left will be in a position of power to recruit further toxics and influence and the process will start all over again.

What are the signs of toxic elements in your organisation?

There are many different types of toxics, and some will be acting in the way they do for different reasons. Some of these reasons (for example, they are being pressured by someone above, or they have been over promoted to a senior position which they don’t fit) can be addressed in different ways, but the most important factor here is to find who they are and examine the reason or reasons they are acting the way they are. Then act quickly and decisively.

Common signs that someone could be a toxic include:
  • They are less productive than others in the same/similar roles/level. Out of all of the reasons this is the most likely where the person may just be in the wrong role for their skill set, or that they need additional training, or that favouritism and nepotism played a big role in getting this person to this level.

  • They are prone to create dramas. This is more often than not a way of directing attention towards themselves, to make it appear they have a more important or larger role in a project than they actually do.

  • Everything they do is for themselves and their own self-interest. They have no interest in building or working in a team. This extends to them being not willing to develop the skills and talents of other workers particularly developing other Qataris.

  • They are unethical in their methods, or goals, or both.

  • Toxics tend to manipulate other employees, to either make them follow their own unethical practices, or to make themselves appear better than they are.

  • They will place the blame on their own shortcomings, failures and poor performance on other employees.

  • Similarly, they will take the credit for the good work carried out by their team, or by other workers.
Consequences of not cleaning up all toxics

As mentioned, it is essential to carry out the process of ridding your company of toxic elements correctly, and that means eliminating all of them. If this is not done thoroughly enough it will inevitably lead to the following consequences:

  • There will be a decrease in motivation from the good employees, as they will see that their hard work is not being rewarded, while those in the company who are carrying out poor or unethical work are progressing and getting promoted.

  • Ethical employers will be afraid to speak up as whistle-blowers if they perceive that the people above them are part of the problem, and any action on their part could have consequences.

  • The best employees will often move to a different company, one where their talents are recognized and rewarded.

  • Any bad apples left in the organization will continue to spread the toxic effects, infiltrating all areas of the organization like a cancer once again.
How to go about clearing the toxic elements

It is the role of leaders to step up and clean up the organization in line with Erdogan’s theory – i.e. clear out all tiers of the business structure, starting from the top and all across. As mentioned, only removing one bad apple will not solve the problem. Those leaders should leverage the help of the HR department who will be able to help identify the individuals concerned, and find out the cause of their behaviour. If they are deemed to be simply toxic, then they should be flushed out.

There are two simple sayings that work perfectly in this situation, and should be applied to the process of ridding your business with all toxic elements for good. The first is: when you clean the stairs, you start from the top. The other is: don’t let one rotten apple spoil the rest of the barrel. They may be simplistic, but as so often in life, the simple things are also the best. And in this case, they are the most effective ways to ensure you have a fully functioning organization where everyone is pushing towards the right direction.


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