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Pixar’s New Short ‘Purl’: It’s About Time We Talk About Toxic Work Culture

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Pixar’s New Short ‘Purl’

Pixar’s new eight-minute short film, Purl, has social media abuzz, with its willingness to confront toxic work cultures head-on, and that’s a good thing. It’s about time more of us have this conversation.

The film, quite possibly a response to the culture at Pixar itself, given allegations of sexual impropriety by Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, is no less powerful as a result. How many of us know of workplaces where the predominant culture is one of aggressive masculinity, closed off to outsiders, or otherwise unwelcome and cliquish? That’s exactly the sort of workplace into which Pixar’s star ball of pink yarn, Purl, walks.

For many workers in Purl’s place, the response might be to quit. If they manage to stay on, though, how many try to assimilate by any means necessary, as Purl does, losing part of their humanity in the process?

In Purl’s case, of course, we see her realize the error of her ways when the second ball of yarn takes a position with B.R.O. Capital. Purl takes the step to welcome this new employee and—from what we see in the following scenes—help change the workplace culture to one of inclusion and, in turn, diversity.

The Benefits of Booting Workplace Toxicity

If nothing has convinced you to address toxic cultural elements in your organization, it may shock you to learn just how much organizational culture impacts your bottom line. Let’s start with the positive items first: how a healthy organizational culture makes your business more successful.

In his research on the neuroscience of trust, neuroeconomist Paul J. Zak found that creating a “culture of trust” has a lasting effect on long-term talent and retention. Zak was able to scientifically prove that trust increases oxytocin (one of the “feel good” hormones) in our brains, therefore increasing our performance, engagement, and energy at work. Some of his more staggering statistics include: In high-trust companies, employees display 74 percent less stress, 106 percent more energy at work, 50 percent more productivity, and 13 percent fewer sick days than employees in other companies. Similarly, employees in high-trust cultures were 76 percent more engaged and 29 percent more satisfied with their jobs and overall lives.

The Costs of Low Trust

On the flip side, consider how the costs of low trust, or other toxic cultures, can hurt your organization. The Workplace Bullying Institute, for instance, has solid data representing the huge losses that can be incurred by keeping even a single bully in your workplace. These losses include turnover costs of up to several times of each position’s yearly wages, time lost in interviewing new employees, inefficiencies that result from attempts to avoid bullies, opportunity costs (as you may be losing higher-contributing members of the team, as well as their clients), and even the costs of litigation or challenged worker’s comp claims.

Every organization’s math will vary, of course, but if you do your homework, the odds are good that no matter how broken the culture may be in your workplace, there are at least a few people who care about the bottom line enough to want to remedy the situation.

The Advantage of Varied Viewpoints

Just as Purl’s voice was lost in her first B.R.O. The capital meeting, drowned out by the chants for aggressive action, think of the viewpoints you lose in your organizational culture when you don’t welcome and seek out other voices. Are you embracing a high-trust culture, where employees feel heard, or do certain voices tend to overshadow others?

In your workplace, how does toxic culture contribute to lost productivity, silent voices, and worse? How does a toxic workplace culture limit what your organization can do?

More importantly, what can you do to fix it? In Pixar’s short, Purl is the bridge to her new coworker, offering a welcome face and a way to push back against the B.R.O. culture. Who in your organization will push back against the toxic elements in your culture? How will you build bridges of inclusivity? And how will you develop a high-trust culture that values all voices?

Claudette Rowley is the CEO of Cultural Brilliance, a cultural design and change management consultancy. Over the past twenty years, she has consulted, trained, and coached executive leaders and teams at Fortune 1000 companies, small businesses, academic institutions, and start-ups, helping them create proactive and innovative workplace cultures that deliver outstanding results. She lays out a road map for organizational success in her new book, Cultural Brilliance: The DNA of Organizational Excellence. Learn more at culturalbrilliance.com.

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