I’ve stayed quiet many years about some of the horrible work situations I have had to endure in toxic company cultures. It's something you think you are not supposed to talk about. It is definitely taboo to talk about on a job interview. But, what are the consequences of poor internal customer service and toxic workplace environments? Most people would not have been the type to have put up with it. In fact, most people that I worked with moved on, but not me. I was going to stand up for what was right and not succumb to the wrong.

I was brought up to be a worker of integrity! My dad was amazing. He was the best example of exceptional work ethic.  We grew up very poor. He told my sister and I that the only way we could turn things around for ourselves would be to get a good education and use our brain, to be honest, hard-working, good to others, and have integrity. I believed him and did just that.

In all my jobs I always had the next goal or promotion in sight. I wanted to move up and I had to prove myself to do so, as I was the youngest to hold many of the management positions I held. At one company, I worked very hard to get promoted. My honest, hard work paid off. However, the Director position (my boss) was a revolving door. Let me tell you about my first horror story:

  1. I was in a sales position. There was a lengthy sales contest. Lots of people would write up fake orders and hope that enough of them would stick long enough to get the credit for the sale. I didn’t partake in those shenanigans, but you can imagine how hard it could be to compete under those conditions. We were at the end of a sales contest and a relative was on his death bed. I had to go pay my last respects the week before the sales contest ended. I worked late every night and on the weekend before we left. I got to the sales goal and beyond to place 1st place without being at work the last week of the contest. One would hope their boss would praise them, but instead, in front of 16 of my competing peers, he insinuated that I cheated. I didn’t and my sales were good. I was beyond angry and I marched into his office after that meeting and gave him a piece of my mind in as respectful of a way as an employee could after being accused of dishonesty. Most people would have thrown in the towel and never worked that hard again, but not me. This boss was so terrible that he was eventually asked to leave. That brings me to the next guy who took his place.

  2. This new boss ended up promoting me and another co-worker. I felt redeemed that my hard work paid off. However, sometime into the new position, employees believed he was having an affair with one of my employees. I believed it too, when she would come out of closed door meetings of an hour or more and the boss had lipstick marks on his neck. Then word got out that she and another employee were trying to get me and my co-worker who was promoted alongside me to be demoted so that they could be promoted into our positions. I took the high road. It was annual performance review time and I was reviewing all the reports of specific measurable goals my employees had. I had seven employees. The one who was suspected of having the affair with the boss had some of the lowest performance. One of my star performers deserved the highest raise possible. However, when I submitted the reviews and raise recommendations, I was told by my boss to reduce the star performers raise and increase the other low performer’s raise (yes, the woman who was suspected of having the affair with him). I said I wouldn’t do it and he would have to make the change himself. He did. I kept all these reports and took them home in a safe spot. I decided I could not live with this going on and I submitted a letter to the GM of the company outlining the evidence. I ran duplicate reports and submitted it with my letter.  I could have been fired. I could have been demoted. But, thankfully justice was served and I remained and my boss didn’t. I don’t think I got him fired. I know I wasn’t the only one who went to the top. Many other factors came into play with his dismissal. There were more bad situations in this particular department that went on over the years and I did leave the department for a promotion that ended up catapulting my career. When I moved into this new department it was like a breath of fresh air. This director knew how important job satisfaction, recognition, and exceptional internal customer service was. I eventually left this company with fond memories of my last five years. I moved to Colorado, which was a dream and goal of mine.

  3. About a year into my new job in Colorado, I was in a near death car accident. I had months of recovery, but being a hard worker, I wanted to get back to work ASAP. Prior to the car accident, my division in the company and specifically the area I was in charge of for sales and marketing was doing quite well. I had made dramatic budget cuts in marketing where overspending previously existed and sales increased. When I came back from my accident I was given a trouble area while I was still recovering. It wasn’t more than a week into this new territory that the VP of our division called me and harassed me about the low production of this new area and was I up for the challenge. He was not nice about it. I’m not sure if he didn’t realize I had just been assigned this new territory and was just back to work after my car accident, but it was enough for me to start looking for a new job.
  1. I got that next job – a great job. I loved my position and most of the people were amazing. However, there was a known bully and I was even warned about her. She had held her position for quite some time. She was a peer. Being the new kid, I seemed to be the object of her “affections”. She seemed to have the protection of one of the owners. I’m not sure why. She ended up retiring during my tenure at this company. The next guy who took her place wasn’t much better, but at least he wasn’t a bully. Still it was manageable and I loved my position. A couple years later I left to start my own business.

What I left out of all these horror stories were all the great bosses I had on my way up the organizations I worked. Yes, I worked in some toxic environments where affairs were commonplace, dishonesty reeked, and internal customer service caused unnecessary turnover. The first company I worked at for 13 years and when I left I had the highest position I desired in the company. My 13 years of experience landed me three job offers in Colorado. I chose to work at story #3. I worked there for two years and moved on to story #4 for three years. I’m not a job hopper. I am loyal. I’ve had my own business since 2005. I wonder if the corporate world is still like it was back in the late 80’s to early 2000’s. Does this sort of office politics still exist? Do affairs in the workplace still determine who gets promoted?

Now, I get hired by companies who want to make sure their internal customer service is as good as their external customer service. I love companies who are forward thinking like this. But, based on what I still hear from those in the workforce, the horror stories still exist.

If you are an employer, what can you do to prevent this culture in your organization? What precautions can you put into place to make sure these types of wrongdoings don’t happen? How can your employees feel successful? It isn’t always about more money.

Turnover is very costly and now Colorado has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation. This makes it even more challenging for companies to attract, hire, and retain top-quality employees. Add into the mix online employee reviews on review engines like Glassdoor.com. A company has to really think long and hard about the culture of their organization – from how employees are treated by their peers and supervisors to how supervisors help advance their employees and help them have the tools to be successful.

If you want to learn more about this and more, please come to a one-of-a-kind event on Wednesday, October 4, “How to attract, hire, and retain the best employees. For more information, click here.

About the author

Beth Boen

Beth Boen is on a mission at The VOICE Customer Service Training - to restore the lost art of providing exceptional customer service and turn the tide on poor customer service becoming the norm! Her blogs contain tips on how to provide exceptional customer service in everything you do!

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