How to Cure a Toxic Work Culture With Non-Violent Communication

applying non-violent communication at work

Work culture influences how employees interact with each other and how an organisation functions. Unfortunately, many businesses struggle with a toxic work culture that sees employees engaging in office politics, gossip, conflict, blame games, harsh competitiveness, and a general crab mentality (trying to bring down the success of others). These unhealthy forms of interaction can, quite frankly, make working life a miserable and stressful experience, which no doubt impacts one’s overall quality of life (I think we all know people, including ourselves, who worry about these sorts of interactions and complain of their effects on one’s mental well-being. Yet, there are much more productive ways of communicating with others at work, ways that foster understanding, conflict resolution, and mutual support. And in this vein, we should turn to non-violent communication. This approach to thinking and speaking, developed by the American psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, can encourage a positive, healthy work culture, which is certainly one of the necessary elements of an overall happy life.

Considering how much time we spend at work, surrounded by our colleagues, it’s essential that we keep things on a friendly basis. Non-violent communication, as a form of communication, can be applied to all sorts of conversations we have, including those we have at work.

Nurturing a non-violent communication in the workplace is something everyone in the team or the office needs to work on. There are steps you need to learn how to follow, and we’re going to break them down together.

Here’s how to apply the four principles of non-violent and positive communication in your workplace and inspire your colleagues to do the same. This will help to combat toxic work culture and make your day-to-day experience of work something that you look forward to, rather than spend dreading.

1. Observation

Conflicts, arguments, and violent communication in the workplace are often provoked by misunderstandings and a lack of realistic thinking.

This is why the first step in the process of applying non-violent communication is observation.

The key is to focus on facts instead of making judgements. This way, you’re creating common grounds for all participants in the conversation.

Don’t make a judgement such as:

  • “He’s constantly ignoring me.”

Instead, make an observation:

  • “He didn’t respond to my idea.”

This will lead to creating common grounds and solving a problem faster. On a macro level, it will contribute to creating a positive workplace culture.

2. Feelings

Showing how you feel and expressing your emotions openly is the second step in the process of applying non-verbal communication in the workplace.

If your colleagues don’t know how you feel, they won’t be able to evaluate their role in your emotions. In addition, they won’t be willing to express their feelings.

This will lead to a complete lack of healthy communication.

Therefore, make sure that you:

  • Express your emotions clearly
  • Allow people to respond to them
  • Invite others to share their feelings
  • Don’t blame anyone, point fingers, or make accusations

Here is an effective way to communicate your feelings and allow the other person to respond:

  • “I feel disrespected because you’re not responding to my ideas.”

3. Needs

To have a positive office atmosphere and properly solve any issues, you need to address the needs of all the participants.

This third step is important since it will shed light on the potential sources of disagreement in terms of the specific needs of all the people involved.

  • “Responding to my ideas is important to me since it signals respect.”

Identify your needs and hear out the needs of the other party. Then, together try finding a solution to meet everyone’s needs.

By making things this clear and straight forward, you’re speeding up the process of reaching a conclusion and making everyone feel satisfied with the result.

4. Requests

Based on your needs, you’ll need to make a clear request on how you wish to fulfil it.

This final step is the realisation of applying non-violent communication in the workplace and will ensure everyone’s on the same page.

  • “Could you try giving me some feedback in the future?”

This way, you’re issuing a clear request that would make you feel better and remove any tensions, or misunderstandings between you and the people you work with.

Naturally, you need to focus on an egalitarian approach to communication and show empathy and honesty.

This means you can’t ask for a request that is impossible to be realised or likely to negatively affect other participants.

Non-Violent Communication Needs Widespread Adoption

Remember, it takes two to tango. You’re not alone in this and even if you’re applying the non-violent communication model in your workplace, keep in mind you’re not the most important figure.

Be ready to compromise, hear out other people’s feelings, needs, and requests, and be willing to work on improvement. This is the only way you can succeed and build a collaborative, enjoyable, and positive work environment. What you may also find fruitful about practising non-violent communication in the workplace is that it will give you the experience and skills necessary to create positive changes in all of your other interpersonal relationships.


Daniela McVicker is a freelance writer, blogger, and editor at Top Writers Review. She graduated from Durham University and has an MA in psychological science. Her passion is travelling and finding ways to enrich students’ learning experiences.

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