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Toxic Workplace: The History of Work and Why Hostile Work Environments Are So Common

In this episode of The Hearth Podcast, we explore the history of the development of work in Europe from land privatization, the inquisition, the money economy and colonization to see how they shaped the work culture of today. We learn why toxic work environments are so common, and what it means to create a psychologically safe, ethical future of work.


The world of work has lots of expectations and rules: the way people behave, the way we dress, the amount of time we work and not work, our capacity for handling stress, these are all often unspoken and unexamined assumptions about the way that work "should be".

We expect all people, regardless of their personal abilities, morals and capacity, to conform to these expectations. We do this to the extent where we force people to overrule their innate needs to function within this system. And then as every generation enters the workforce, we wonder why they're so different from us; why they "can't handle" what we can. But we've just become acclimated to work culture and to its abuses (not even seeing them as abuses anymore), and pass on the wounds that we have suffered, just as parents pass on their wounds to their children.

But the times are changing, and there are change-makers who are deciding to take a different path. This week's episode of The Hearth is the first of a 2-part miniseries that looks deeper at how we created our current agreements about what is and isn't "work". This episode examines the workings of power in Europe that shaped the nature of work into what it is today, specifically looking into the development and exportation of systems of oppression.

I was driven to this research because I hear a lot about "systems of oppression" being at fault for prejudices we experience today. And I agree that is the case, but I wanted to understand really how those systems came into being. It turns out that story goes much further back than the research that I have conducted so far, but it's start, and I'm grateful to be able to share it with you now.

If something you heard today brought a smile to your face or a spark to your heart, and you’d like to connect with me, here are a few ways you can do that. One is my newsletter, it’s where I put most of my time and energy when I’m not working with clients or on this podcast. Sorry social media! It’s a mix of real life stories, tips and tricks and of course updates on what’s happening with the podcast. Whenever something is going on with me or in my business, it always comes out there first.

Another resource that I have for you is my Guide to Doing Work Differently. The guide takes you through four inquiries into how you can build a more sustainable and equitable work environment for yourself and your team. It's a great place to start.

Last, if you’ve got a burning question, a comment, or a situation you’d like my eyes on, you can email me at candice@fortressandflourish.com. If you enjoyed this episode, hit subscribe to know when the next episodes come out, and if you’re feeling generous, leave a review. Reviews help other like-minded folks find their way to this resource.

Learn more about Candice and her work here.

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