Meetings VS Boxing Matches ?

Have you ever…

Been in a meeting that seemed like a boxing match? 

Where people enter the room and…

  • Take a corner
  • Put their guard up
  • Look to throw the first punch
  • Are ready to throw in the towel

If you’ve experienced these work ‘fight clubs’ you’re not alone.

I’ve experienced those aggressive meetings too.

Of course, you don’t always recognise these negative atmospheres when you’re experiencing them…


First, because you’re used to them. They’re normal.

Second, because cultures rarely become toxic overnight. It’s a slow march from “morning guys” to “I hate you so much right now”.


And it’s that slow march that allows a toxic culture to creep up on us and cause so much damage in our companies.

(Aside: In my new book, I look at these toxic cultures in depth)

Here’s the good news:

There are steps you can take to….

  • Defeat an existing toxic culture.
  • Or stop a toxic culture forming.

How to Defeat a Toxic Culture

If your culture is high in conflict, it’s hard to defeat it during a meeting. Because if you try to tackle it head on… “Hey Steve, you’re being aggressive”… you’re going to be pouring oil on the fire…

  • by adding more conflict into the mix
  • by telling people they’re “wrong”.  

Let’s be clear: people hate being wrong. 

(I’m convinced many people would rather saw their legs off instead of admitting that they’re wrong).

And adding more conflict into the mix ?➔? isn’t helping anyone.

So what should you do?

  1. Assess the situation: Is it company wide or routed in one sub-team?
  2. Bring team members together around things they have in common. Look for common interests they have inside and outside of work, help the team see them too.
  3. Have an honest conversation with your team about the combative culture of the company
  4. Give people training on communication, emotional intelligence, debate, etc.

(Aside: These aren’t comprehensive steps. But they’ll get you moving in the right direction.)

How to Stop a Toxic Culture Forming

It’s wise to have the right practices in place, so a toxic culture doesn’t form in the place. 

Because it’s easier to make changes when people are positive, open, and willing. And let’s face it, people in a toxic culture are going to be less willing and open.

With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to keep your culture healthy.

  1. Have an onboarding process, which includes an introduction to the culture of your team. E.g., “we don’t point fingers here”.
  2. Introduce a culture of 360-degree every-day accountability… where people hold each other accountable for their attitudes. This is an advanced move, but it can pay dividends for the right team. However, you need to get your team onboard with this idea.
  3. Give your leaders training so they can set a positive example for the rest of the team.

In conclusion

Work doesn’t have to be a boxing match ❌ 🥊  . 

With the right approach and leadership, you can turn around your team and culture for good.

Thanks for being here,


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