Improving the work climate in a TVET college through changing conversations
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As an HRD manager in a college, I am responsible for employee wellness within the organisation. However the culture of the college in which I work is toxic, characterised by bullying, destructive leadership, gossip and victimisation. Such a culture is difficult to change and requires a different approach to the expert-led, training interventions that are underpinned by diagnostic organisational development. In this article, I provide evidence that supports my claim that a participatory action research approach, embedded within a dialogic organisational development paradigm, succeeded in improving the work climate as it enabled individuals to identify the factors which contributed to the toxic environment and take action to improve it. The participatory methods employed allowed the x participating college mangers to deal with their own feelings, and enabled them to describe and evaluate the workplace climate as toxic. Armed with a discourse to discuss the problem, they were able to move from helplessness and selfblame to acceptance of responsibility for change. Viewing the problem as a systemic issue enabled them to understand how to modify their practice to embody life-enhancing values that diminished the toxic patterns of communication. By changing conversations, negativity was diminished and negative interactions were replaced by more positive workplace relations. The process described in this account of my learning may be useful to improve the climate in other similarly toxic workplaces.
- Faculty of Education