What ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ scandal tells us about toxic workplaces

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In 2016, popular daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Although the honor was awarded to DeGeneres on behalf of her philanthropic contributions, she has successfully maintained a tender-hearted public persona over the course of her 40-year career through displaced breakdancing toddlers and luxurious giveaway staples of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that solidified her status as an icon.

Or so we thought. An investigation by BuzzFeed in July branded a headline: “Former Employees Say Ellen’s “Be Kind” Talk Show Mantra Masks A Toxic Work Culture,” where allegations of racist behavior and intimidation ran rampant on her program. Tales of bullying, sexual misconduct, and more were all reported to be happening behind the scenes of the show.

As DeGeneres grapples with what will happen to her once-bright career, WarnerMedia lodged an internal investigation, Variety reported. As it remains too early to know what the investigation will yield, the fall of DeGeneres’ show is something that offices around the country deal with in different capacities.

Sixty million American workers habitually experience harassment in the office, according to a recent study by The Workplace Bullying Institute. Most come at the hands of toxic executives, but 65% of these cases soon came with termination.

For those needing a primer on toxic executives, it’s those who opt to inspire productivity among their staff via intimidation tactics. This can occur in a number of different ways including belittlement, exclusion, unreasonable deadline expectations, participation in gossip, humiliation, and other forms.

Although the keep-your-head-down approach was as common as the sight of the back of your hand, holding people accountable for toxic workplace behavior has never been so important, according to former Navy Seal Brent Gleeson.

“When an organization is working diligently to have accountability as part of its culture, accountability is not just a top-down strategy. It’s also not a negative thing,” Gleeson explained to Business Insider

“Accountability in an organization when executed properly, actually has a positive impact on morale, efficiency, and even the profitability and success of an organization. But again, it’s not just about leaders holding their team members and subordinates accountable, in a really truly accountable organization that is successful they have a culture of upward management and upward leadership.”

Harmonious office culture and profit go hand-in-hand — it can never be said enough.

Often diversity, transparency, and compassion are pitched as countervailing points in reference to quality output, but research suggests the contrary time-and-time again.

A study recently in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science employed fish models, finding that determined groups led by subordinate males outperform those led by dominant and aggressive males. Similarly, a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association of 1,076 US workers found that hard-hearted bosses produce unfocused teams and high turnover rates.

The evidence put forward underlines the multifaceted consequence of sociopathic leadership.

So what are your options if you’re dealing with this type of leader? If stepping down isn’t convenient, consider seeking your human resource department for plans of recourse.

“Let your superiors and human resources know, through your documentation and meetings with your coworkers and boss, that you have done all you can do on your own to cope with and abate your boss’s flagrantly abusive behavior,” psychologist and author Sherrie Campbell writes. “Explain the impact the bullying has had on your physical, emotional, and mental health along with how it has negatively impacted your work performance. File a formal complaint and allow human resources to instigate an investigation.”

Ultimately, to tackle a systemic problem like the abuse of power, sacrifices need to be made.

Choosing not to endure harassment at work by quitting or reporting relevant parties to HR may very well lead to unfavorable outcomes, as was the case with many of the subscribers associated with the Hollywood takedowns that continue to pepper the decade. Sadly, resignation might be the most meaningful tool at our disposal.

Rumors of Degeneres’s toxic workplace behavior have been circulating for years, according to reports. 2020 might be the first year that influence submits to retribution.

Be sure to check out The Workplace Strategies for Mental Health’s virtual wellness program for tips on addressing harassment.

“Many of us are put into leadership roles with little or no training on how to actually lead,” the Organization explained. “By improving our own comfort and effectiveness in resolving workplace issues, we can improve psychological health and safety for all. These resources are evidence and/or practice-based approaches that can help.