“You’re sh*t! You should quit! If you stay in this position, your life will be a misery” are just some of the demeaning and demoralizing comments made to employees by senior management.
When most people think of Amnesty International, the general thoughts that get circulated are those of a helpful organization that helps support human rights. According to sources from within the organization, the work environment is toxic.
While it’s known that NGO environments can be stressful due to their mandates and goals of trying to bring change to the planet, Amnesty International even states on their own About Us webpage that “Amnesty International is a global movement of over 7 million people in more than 150 countries working together to protect and promote human rights.” Yet, in an interview conducted by KonTerra Group with 485 Amnesty employees, many of them branded the company as a toxic work environment.
While stressors can always present in the work environment, it’s up to the managers and leaders to brunt that from the employees. Whether in an NGO or for-profit environment, people will react to motivating factors in the same way, and constant sources of stress not only lead to more disengagement, absenteeism, and even can result in malicious actions by employees to help a company fail, but in this case of two of the employees from Amnesty. Gaëtan Mootoo, and Rosalind McGregor, suicide.
This kind of systemic bullying and demoralizing attitude is the kind of organizational atmosphere that does cost businesses great employees, and as a result, kills productivity. It also goes so far to show that toxic work environments can be found anywhere, and most likely, in this case, may have only begun with subtle attitude shifts and eventually, like a plague, spread amongst the staff. Unfortunately, negative perspectives and attitudes are quite addictive and can spread like wildfire within an organization, even one that, at its core, is fundamentally against all aspects of human endangerment.
As mentioned in previous articles, Employee Engagement is a top-down initiative that begins with senior management and is thus reflected through middle managers all the way down to employees. The problem with organizations where the opposite is true is that the effect of cascading positivity becomes an environment of cascading negativity. Employees feel devalued, unappreciated, unsupported, with little to no job security. Regardless of whether the employees have a sense of responsibility, the pressure of doing well does not come from pride or joy for what’s being done but is rather driven by fear and distaste.
These kinds of motivating factors may drive results in the short term, but like any abusive relationship, overall sentiments felt towards work being done fades and becomes toxic. In the case of the non-profit, as the report states “As organizational rifts and evidence of nepotism and hypocrisy become public knowledge they will be used by government and other opponents of Amnesty’s work to undercut or dismiss Amnesty’s advocacy around the world, fundamentally jeopardizing the organization’s mission.” This will not only affect the organization’s inner workings and sustainability, but also their efficacy around the world amongst other people who are facing humanitarian crises, undercutting everything the organization has come to be known for around the world.