Insights on tackling a toxic workplace from the Ex-COO of Pinterest

The corporate culture of a company has a much deeper significance in current times. The culture of an organization leaves an imprint on its employees for life. Studies abound stating that a positive and inclusive work culture can help any company unlock the hidden potential of employees, that can help in enhancing company performance, productivity and innovation.

Similarly, when the corporate culture is unfair and discriminatory it can radically hinder the progress of a company. Françoise Brougher, the Ex-COO of Pinterest, is currently fighting a legal battle with her former employer for wrongful termination, gender discrimination and retaliation. Brougher filed the lawsuit after two former Pinterest employees (both black women) publicly accused the company of racial discrimination.

Brougher, a tech-industry veteran and an ex-Google employee spoke openly about her experience at a recent event. Here are a few suggestions that Brougher shared for organizations that want to root out discrimination and overhaul toxic corporate cultures, as reported by Inc.

Beware of unspoken sexist norms

Drawing from her personal experience at Pinterest, Brougher said that if she had a disagreement with her male colleagues, she would be criticized for “not aligning with the team”, but if a man made the same remarks, he would be applauded for being bold. Brougher terms it as an “abrasiveness trap” – situation where women receive more negative feedback than men and are subjected to criticsm for their personality and tone.

Companies must keep an eye out for such instances and take action to curb sexist judgements to make the company culture more inclusive and gender neutral.

Hiring diverse people is not enough – you need to retain them

Brougher points out that many Silicon Valley companies are “obsessed” with hiring underrepresented minorities and women, but she advises them to reward their contribution appropriately and make more efforts to retain them. Brougher urges companies to adopt a holistic approach towards diversity and place equal importance on hiring and providing them opportunities to progress in order to retain them.

Companies must assess new hires from different backgrounds on what they bring to the work culture and not whether they are fitting into the existing company culture. Brougher also encourages companies to create new systems that can help underrepresented employees to progress in their roles.

Statements should be backed by data and action

Statements and declarations about the importance of diversity in an organization are good but those are not enough to transform the culture of a company. Companies must gather and publish the data about hiring, promotions and retentions to support their claims of advocating a diverse work culture.

Brougher says, “if you don’t measure it, you are not going to make any progress”. She advocates pay transparency and employing equitable promotion processes, and a thorough examination of off-cycle promotions.

Let go of the NDAs

Companies often have employees sign nondisclosure agreements to protect intellectual property and rights. However, it is not uncommon for organizations to tie severance payments to NDAs in order to silence the victims of workplace toxicity.

Brougher urges companies to embrace inclusiveness and diversity from the core and aim to build a workplace culture that can “cherish” whistleblowers as they give companies a chance to rectify its faults and implement steps that can truly improve the work culture.

As the world gears up for a “new normal” and the future of work, now is the best time to overcome shortcomings and build a fresh and positive workplace culture for employee well-being and business success.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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