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  • Nikki Trotter, MS, M.A., SHRM-CP, ACC

Updated: Jul 13, 2022


We all know a toxic culture when we see it. We recognize it because it doesn’t look right or feel right, yet the toxicity continues to prevail and excel; day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year. Toxic cultures grow like weeds and they squeeze the life out of employees, the leaders, and the overall organization. These seeds are planted and watered daily and they grow and spread and become what we call: Organizational Behavior(s). These organizational behaviors are the unspoken norms that are cultivated, fostered, and sustained; and make up the anatomy of the organizational culture. As an I/O psychologist and leadership coach, I have experienced this type of culture; and I know the toll and impact that it can take on the health and well-being of #humanresources, #leaders, and #employees. But I also know that every organization has the potential to be a healthy and productive working environment for all. But if you believe that you are working in a toxic environment, and you are not 100% sure, here are some clear signs to affirm your suspicions:

  1. Leaders have titles but no influence. This means that the only leaders that have real influence and can truly empower teams are the Senior leaders at the very top. All other leaders are just "figureheads." This means that their leadership is usually usurped and they are only in that place to manage the daily operations, and not to truly lead with focus and a vision.

  2. Unhealthy competition. Instead of collaboration and knowledge sharing, teams resort to holding information, backstabbing, and having meetings after the meeting. This is because there is an atmosphere that has been created that says we have that us vs. them mentality, and everyone is for themselves. The employees that are "favorites" know who they are and they use this to their advantage to create this hostile and competitive working environment.

  3. Too top-heavy. I will give some organizations the benefit of the doubt for trying to create growth opportunities. However, this creates bottlenecks and all types of issues for leaders to lead when there are multiple levels of leadership for small teams as well as middle managers that are seeking to stretch their developmental capabilities.

  4. No real diversity, equity, or inclusion. Just look at the DEI numbers and you will see that these initiatives are just words on nice-looking paper and they are great for a company's performative position. But the lack of diversity creates exclusive working environments when all hands are not on deck, and not all seats are filled with diverse opinions of thought.

  5. Too much change. There is a tornado brewing in the organization as it relates to change while upper leadership continues to create tsunamis. This creates a lack of mental and physical self-care which ultimately leads to stress, burnout, anxiety, and depression for team members.

  6. No psychological safety. If you speak your mind or if you are too innovative or forward-thinking, your ideas are deemed as "too risky" or if you make a mistake, you have committed a career-ending or career-limiting offense. You are also reprimanded when you debate issues or disagree with leadership.

  7. Survey fatigue. You know the routine! Every six months an employee survey is sent to everyone within the organization asking for feedback and comments. As soon as the feedback is received, no action is taken and the survey becomes an afterthought until the next time. This is one of the most counterproductive and detrimental moves that organizations make, yet they continue to survey and run. There is probably nothing that creates a more toxic and untrusting environment than this one.

  8. Poor leadership. Companies spend billions of dollars a year on leadership programs, yet leaders are not leading effectively as they can be. This is because most leaders are put in leadership positions. After all, they did well as individual contributors. And we fail to assess the most important question that we should be asking a leader; why do you want to lead?

  9. Overdevelopment but no growth. Organizations are struggling to find opportunities for promotion and succession. Therefore, they are relying heavily on stretch assignments and lateral moves. This creates animous because employees want to grow up more than they want to grow out. More focus should be put on growing up because that is the only way employees will feel safe and valued vs feeling like they have to constantly compete to get to the top.

  10. Selective not objective. Organizations fail to create clear and compelling criteria for what it takes to advance through the ranks to leadership. Instead, they use the "tap" method which posits that they have an employee that they like, and/or one that they have mentored and they become the 'golden child' and the one that is next in line for a promotion even if they are not ready or they don't have the qualifications for the job. This creates an instant culture of favoritism and toxicity. Leaders need to create and communicate their criteria for promotions and make sure that they adhere to those guidelines at all times.

Toxic cultures don't just impact organizations, it also affects the emotional, mental, and physical health of their employees. As a coach, my advice to you is that if you are in a toxic working environment, and you need some relief, don't be afraid to reach out for help. There is nothing that is more important than your health and well-being.


What are some other toxic workplace behaviors that you have you experienced?


Nikki Trotter is the Founder and CEO of IO, LLC., a transformational coaching company. I specialize in coaching professional women in leadership from the front line to the C-Suite. I help my clients master the art of resilient leadership to take control of their careers with courage, clarity, and confidence.


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  • Nikki Trotter, MS, M.A., SHRM-CP, ACC

Updated: Jul 13, 2022


I believe it is safe to say that many of us have experienced some type of setback in our professional #career: a challenge, an interruption, or perhaps even derailment. These types of events have and may still be paralyzing or traumatizing us in ways that we are not even aware of. This trauma and paralysis may be causing us to experience defeat due to a lack of confidence, it may be stopping us from moving forward due to a lack of direction, we may be feeling like we have no voice because we are not being heard, or we may feel like we don't belong because we just do not feel included. In other words, we know that what we have experienced is not just an emotion or simply a feeling, but it is real. It is real and #careerPTSD is real! And it can have career-derailing effects if we don't understand or know how to #moveforward from these traumatic career events. If you have experienced or are experiencing some form of careerPTSD due to career derailment or a career setback, here are a few ways to help you put things into perspective and put these things in your rearview mirror.


REVIEW. First, separate who you are from what you have experienced. Remember that although you have experienced a very bad work or workplace event; it does not define who you are or what you will do in your future career. You have the power within to define how it will impact you and determine how you will respond to it and chart your path forward.

REFRAME. Secondly, take some quiet time to reflect and to put things into perspective. Identify what you have learned from this negative experience, which lessons you want to hold on to, and let go of the rest. Identify these lessons as new doors of opportunity and positive change.


RECHARGE. Thirdly, fight the temptation to want to #escape and retreat from your experience. You will only delay the inevitable by suppressing the hurt and pain. This is the time when you need to lean into your network of family, friends, and most importantly, a #coach. The more you do this, the quicker you will be able to #rebound in your career and get the help and support that you need to help you make a positive and more productive transition.

RISK. It may sound like a very bad idea to experience a career setback or derailment and want to take on more risk. But the risk is not the enemy, fear is. Therefore, you have nothing to lose by putting it all on the line and being bold about your next career move. As they say, this is the time to 'GO BIG OR GO HOME.' Plan to step out of your career comfort zone and take your career to the next level.

REWARD. When it is all said and done you will get through this and in doing so you will be stronger for it. It does not feel good at the moment, but you will look back on this and feel confident that whatever comes your way in your career, you will make it through. So, celebrate, reward, and treat yourself because you deserve it! Accepting that you have been through the storm and although you got wet, and may have caught a cold, you were not blown away or blown over. Make this career test your career testimony! And believe that your next BIG career opportunity is ahead of you and everything else behind you is called: EXPERIENCE!


Nikki Trotter is the Founder and CEO of IO, LLC., a transformational coaching company. I specialize in coaching professional women in leadership from the front line to the C-Suite. I help my clients master the art of resilient leadership to take control of their careers with courage, clarity, and confidence.








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  • Nikki Trotter, MS, M.A., SHRM-CP, ACC

Updated: Jul 13, 2022


Check out my inspiring, exciting, and fun-filled podcast interview with Jackie Capers-Browns Go Be Great Podcast: EP 110: Embrace the Grace to Be Great! In this interview, Jackie and I conversate on all things leadership, greatness, coaching, and more!

Here are some notes from the interview:

In the guest chair, today is Coach Nikki Trotter. She is CEO/ President of IO, LLC Human Performance & Behavior Coach, ACC. Combining over 15 years of experience as a leadership coach and consultant, She is a reputable and respected industrial/organizational psychologist that understands the connection between human behavior and human performance. Nikki’s coaching philosophy is that the coaching relationship between the coach and the client is unique and special. It is a relationship of trust and a partnership of co-creation.

Questions I Asked In this Episode

  • What does empathy look and feel like to you?

  • How can we as the public develop a greater level of empathy?

  • What actions did you take to build relationships with other coaches?

  • What is a pivotal challenge you've had to overcome to build your coaching business?

  • As a business owner, what are you doing to build brand awareness to acquire customers?

  • What benefits have you gained from coaching?

  • What are your thoughts on how self-leadership impacts our success?

  • What is your theme song?

  • What was your favorite TV show as a teenager?

  • And so much more ...

What You'll Learn In this Episode

  • How Michael Jackson Moonwalk inspired her to pursue a recording artist

  • The WHY that inspires her coaching practice and business

  • The importance of diversifying your career portfolio and why it is important

  • What you should expect from an effective coaching experience

  • A key insight about delegating as a business owner

  • Why does she believe we're in the business of relationships

  • The theme song for her life

  • Things you need to consider as you navigate a career transition

  • The importance of giving yourself the grace to grow and be great

  • And so much more ...

Contact Nikki Trotter

  • Website

  • LinkedIn

Music Credit: Bensound Elevate Bensound Badass

Subscribe to Podcast: Apple Itunes | Spotify | Amazon TuneIn | iHeartRadio


Nikki Trotter is the Founder and CEO of IO, LLC., a transformational coaching company. I specialize in coaching professional women in leadership from the front line to the C-Suite. I help my clients master the art of resilient leadership to take control of their careers with courage, clarity, and confidence.


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