Money Cannot Fix a Toxic Workplace, But This Can — According to Research

The headlines are usually the same — a previously hyped company exposed as a toxic workplace. And typically that means it is most poisonous to its own employees. The stories of weak integrity and marginalizing leaders shine a light on darkness that many workplaces know all too well.

Companies become toxic for a number of reasons. Most typically is when leaders prioritize financial results over anything else. This leads to bad behavior and unhappy workers.

But while the cause may garner bold headlines, there is something even more revealing that is worth your attention — how companies handle the fallout after the expose. And I can tell you that the ones that fire a few leaders and throw “stay bonuses” to keep good people end up circling back again to the same destructive work culture.

Yes, it is important to be compensated well for hard work — but money alone cannot fix a toxic work culture. So, what can fix a toxic workplace?

Studies show that non-financial perks (such as recognition, remote work, and flexible schedules) make a considerable impact on employee engagement and job satisfaction. The best companies go beyond financial rewards and address what people really want — appreciation and the chance to be their best in every area of life. This is true if a company is already behaving well or recovering from poor behavior.

Our team at Aha! has always taken a human-centric approach to building the company. So, we go out of our way to share gratitude for each team member. We also built Aha! on the premise and promise of remote work, and we continue to be 100 percent distributed even as the company rapidly grows. As of this writing, we have more than 75 teammates working across four continents, six countries, and eight time zones.

Now, if you are in a truly terrible and cruel work environment, I am not suggesting that you will be able to solve it by occasionally “thanking” the team with some trinket or bonus, or even by implementing a remote work policy. Workplace happiness is obviously more nuanced than that.

Here are five key ingredients that I believe are necessary for people to be happy at work:

You want to feel like your work matters. So ask yourself: Do you know what you are working on each day and why? How does your work fit into the company’s big picture? When the answers to these questions are clear, even your most mundane tasks will be fused with a sense of purpose.

Happiness does not come from maintaining the status quo. Leaders should provide a clear path for growth — offering you opportunities to increase skills, take on new projects, and move into new roles. If this is not happening for you, you might need to pursue your own growth, whether it is volunteering for a new project, seeking out a mentor, or having an honest conversation with your boss about your career trajectory (or lack thereof).

This is a two-way exchange. You need to respect the company you work for and you need them to respect you right back. This is about more than just basic kindness (though that is important too). It is about taking actions every day to add to your reservoir of respect. Make an effort daily to listen closely, respond quickly, and show gratitude. Your company and teammates should do the same for you.

Another sign of a respectful culture is trusting you to get the work done. It should not matter if you are at the office late into the night or working from your own kitchen table. When a company offers this kind of autonomy — whether it is remote work or a flexible environment — it helps you bring your best to every part of life. You can work hard for your company while still being available for your friends and family.

Leaders help build happiness by providing all of the above, but it is ultimately up to you to find and pursue your own passion. Sure, not every day will have you jumping with joy — but most days should be fueled by a love for what you do. If this passion is lacking, try to focus on finding small joys in your day-to-day tasks, such as helping a teammate in need or honing new skills.

Earlier, I wrote that companies become toxic for a number of reasons. But there is one consistent truth that can help prevent the myriad of causes — money should never come before people.

And money also cannot fix the dysfunction either. The only way to really fix it is to take a holistic approach to creating more happiness at work — appreciating the contributions of each team member and helping them to achieve their best every day.

What do you need to be happy at work?

3 Things That Companies Get Wrong When Thinking Of Team Building

Years ago, it was common for company executives and decision makers to snicker at the idea of team building, often downplaying it as hippy-dippy or an excuse for employees to go bowling and get drunk.

Today, team building has become one of the most valuable investments that a company can make–it helps forge strong bonds among team members, opens up communication, reduces conflict and builds trust. That being said, even today a few commonly-held fallacies dissuade companies from pulling the trigger. Here are three misconceptions about team building which should have been retired along with the phablet. 

Team Building Sucks

Based on the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM), which found its foothold in Japanese manufacturing in the 1940’s, modern team building sets out to both improve connections among people–a growing need around the world–and is designed to bring new perspective, through experiential workshops, so people can be more deliberate, more often in the areas that matter most.

Even though team building has been around for nearly 80 years, one activity in particular has significantly damaged its reputation over the years. Team building has lost its meaning over time due to the proliferation of poorly advised group exercises such as the now comical trust falls.

Bill John, President and founder of Odyssey Teams, Inc. has been providing team building expertise to professionals for over 25 years. He sees a direct link between employee cohesion and profit. “It’s about connecting team members with a value of their product and customers. If they can’t do that, they can’t connect with each other.” Team building transforms people, teams, businesses and communities. Who doesn’t want to have more meaningful relationships with fellow team members and the mindset to better impact their cohorts?

Millennials Are a Lost Cause

Millennials have been called lazy, entitled and narcissistic while also being blamed for destroying a number of industries. Not only is this generalization misguided, it undermines team cohesion and company culture. Older generations are simply failing to understand Millennials’ priorities, one of which is philanthropy. This is why corporate social responsibility (CSR) really resonates with this generation.

Millennials make up a significant percentage of today’s workforce, and team building is an effective way to reach and motivate them. It’s not that Millennials are opposed to connecting, it’s just the delivery method has to be different. 

No matter the generation there is always a divide in how the previous generation sees the new generation engage. Our motivations and instincts are all the same but we grow up with different technology, different habits and different social norms. 

I’m incredibly personable but I also wear headphones when I go to the grocery store–if I even go to the grocery store because ordering it on my phone is even more convenient. 

So make the process more convenient. 

Cheap Solutions Are Best

Unless you work for one of the big boys in Silicon Valley, odds are that your company has a finite budget so when it comes to team building, getting the best bang for your buck is logical.

However, companies who skimp on team building are doomed to pay the price in the long run. Sure, your team will probably enjoy visiting an escape room or hearing a guest speaker, but the positive effects of such activities are likely to be minimal at best.

A proper, professional team building experience, on the other hand, forges new and lasting relationships among team members, resulting in long-term, increased overall engagement. In addition, budgeting for a quality team building workshop shows your team that you are invested in them. When employees feel valued by their employers, they are more likely to rise to the challenge when their company really needs them. 

Plastic Straws’ Days Are Numbered. But You Can Slurp On With These Green Alternatives

My daughter–now an environmentalist who used to delight in blowing the wrapping paper off straws at me when I wasn’t looking–broke the news to me: Plastic straws may be on the verge of extinction. The fact is that they are terrible for the environment; perhaps worse than plastic bottles or bags

According to Fast Company, 500 million straws are used daily in the U.S. and McDonalds is already testing alternatives. Many states are on the verge of prohibiting them and some countries already have bans in place. 

Sustainable practices are good for business in the long run. They give rise to creative solutions. According to Transparency Market Research, reusable water bottles will generate $10 billion in sales by 2024 and have even become trendy fashion accessories.

Inventors are already on the case, marketing alternatives to the plastic straw. Hay Straws declares, “Plastic straws suck!” on its website and sells straws that can go directly from your empty bottle or glass into the compost bin.

You can even carry your own straws around. Greens Straws come with their own cleaning brush and a lifetime guarantee. The family-run business was created in 2015 and the company behind the straws — Greens Steel — also makes water bottles and cups. The self-funded business based out of Portland, Oregon reports that straw sales have doubled since consumers became more aware of the environmental issue. Much of Greens Straws marketing efforts go toward education, teaching consumers and restaurants about the dangers of plastic straws. 

Simply Straws was an early innovator, creating handcrafted glass straws in California as early as 2012. The straws sell for $20 each on Amazon, so you probably won’t be seeing them in your neighborhood pizza shop any time soon. But true environmentalists will feel good about every sip because the company donates a percent of its profits to environmental causes.

Several manufacturers are selling variations on titanium and stainless steel straws. Some even come with their own colorful carry bags and you can buy silicone tips to keep the drinking side sanitary. 

We’re far from the last straw. Smart innovators will develop and profit from the ban before it goes into effect. 

And here’s more good news…you can still get that thrill of shooting the paper at your fellow diners. Eco-Products makes a line of straws from corn plastic–and they have environmentally-friendly paper wrappers.

5 Guaranteed Ways To Be Successful (and what top innovators have to say about them)

Success. We all want it.  But how do we achieve lasting success that actually makes us feel fulfilled instead of burnt-out? Below are 5 key principles guaranteed to help you reach the kind of success that leaves you challenged, fulfilled, motivated and confident.


Your genius involves the kind of thinking and problem solving that keeps you in your sweet spot of challenge, meaning you’re challenged in the best way possible. Ask yourself, “When are you in the zone?” Pay attention to those moments and identify the type of thinking that you’re doing when you’re in the zone. By identifying this, you can learn how to seek out the kind of work that is energizing and presents just the right amount of challenge. Once you nurture your genius, you can become exceptional at it and use it to build a career that moves you. Learn more about defining your Genius.


Purpose is often overlooked when thinking about success. Typically, if you feel purposeful in your job, it’s considered lucky rather than a key to success. But identifying your purpose, specifically the impact you have on clients and colleagues that is meaningful to you, is a powerful tool for navigating career momentum and being successful. Think about it: If you know you’re purpose then you know what kind of work is fulfilling to you. If you’re purpose is saving the planet, you can excel in finding opportunities for business owners to be greener or incorporate more wellness practices into their corporation. You’ll also learn who to connect with and enrich those relationships to achieve career momentum. Adam Grant’s research proved that just understanding the impact of your work improves performance. Hear more from Adam Grant here.


How often have you thought you were happy at work, but truthfully were just an achievement junkie – addicted to that dopamine rush any time you achieved a goal or received validation? If this is you, you’re missing out on the energizing sense of enjoyment that comes from the process of your work, not just in achieving goals. Also, when achievements are your only source of joy, you must achieve, achieve, achieve – which causes exhaustion and burnout.  Enjoying the process of your work just as much as achievements brings more happiness to your job, which according to Shawn Achor is not just nice to have, but essential to better performance. Check out Shawn Achor’s talk on happiness.

Growth Mindset:

A key driver of success is being mindful of what’s driving your efforts. According to Eduardo Briceńo most people are operating in a performance zone rather than a learning zone which actually hinders performance. When you start thinking that you can always improve, you become more empowered and more motivated to tackle hurdles. Carol Dweck calls this a Growth Mindset and says that when you realize your skills aren’t static you’re more likely to achieve the success you desire. Here’s more from Eduardo Briceńo.


One word exemplifies perseverance more than any other; Grit. Angela Duckworth defines Grit as the combination of passion and perseverance for achieving long-term goals. In other words, never giving up. What’s more important than IQ is your power to believe in your own abilities despite setbacks and never giving up. Watch Angela Duckworth define Grit.

This is the 1 Critical Thing You Should Do Before Any Job Interview

When going after a new career opportunity, there are plenty of steps you need to take (there’s a reason they say that getting a new job is a job unto itself!)

Assessing your market value, finding jobs that meet your desired salary range), and of course, networking should all be part of the build-up to landing a big job interview. And regardless of the role you’re pursuing, as soon as you get called in, there’s one role you need to take on: Chief Research Officer.

Only two percent of applicants get interviews, so if you’re lucky enough to get that far, don’t blow it by skipping your homework. With the amount of information available online about just about everywhere you’re sending a resume, there’s no excuse not to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the ins and outs of both the company where you’re interviewing and the interviewer herself.

Start with the company website, but don’t end there. A quick Google News search can give you the most up to date happenings of a business, and give you some informed talking points for your interview (along with topics to avoid).

A company’s social media channels and blog will also give you the latest internal news, a glimpse of what’s top of mind, and insight to the brand’s voice (plus, following their social channels can’t hurt in terms of brownie points). From all of this research, jot down a few questions you can ask when you’re put on the spot at the end of the interview that showcase that you’ve done your homework.

Sure, this next step may qualify you as a certified lurker, but you can also peek into your interviewer’s social channels to get an idea of their personality and interests. LinkedIn is the least creepy version of this “personality audit” (though, beware if they have Premium they’ll know you’ve been trawling them), and can also give you the opportunity to suss out any first degree connections that might put in a good word for you.

You’ll get some more personal insights on Instagram and Facebook, but just be careful to avoid the dreaded “deep like” (or any like, really) if you don’t want your cyberstalking known. Remember that all of this is on background: It will definitely creep your interviewer out if you ask her about her niece’s birthday party this past weekend.

This online research is about more than just impressing your potential employer, though–it’s about sussing out the company culture to assess if it’s a good fit for you. Check out   Glassdoor for insights on company culture from current and former employees. While one disgruntled rant shouldn’t turn you away, a consistent thread of negative reviews can be a red flag.

And remember that digital research can go both ways: your potential employer (and co-workers!) will inevitably use the same techniques on you the moment your resume lands on their desks. While you’re polishing your resume, give your LinkedIn and social channels a good scrub as well.

Emirates Islamic appoints new CEO as profits soar

UAE-based Emirates Islamic has announced the appointment of former Emirates NBD senior executive Salah Amin as its new CEO.

The bank said Amin brings nearly 30 years of experience in the banking industry, having started his career at Emirates NBD Group in 1989 and was previously executive vice president, head of corporate banking group at Dubai’s biggest bank.

“I am pleased to welcome Salah Amin to his new role and wish him success in building further on Emirates Islamic’s market leading position,” said Hesham Abdulla Al Qassim, chairman of Emirates Islamic and vice chairman and managing director Emirates NBD.

Amin succeeds Jamal Bin Ghalaita, a seasoned veteran who retires after 28 years of service with Emirates NBD Group. Ghalaita will serve as advisor to Emirates Islamic’s chairman until the end of 2018.

“Jamal Bin Ghalaita was the linchpin of Emirates Islamic’s remarkable brand transformation to one of the fastest growing and most successful banks in the UAE,” said Al Qassim.

One of the fastest growing banks in the UAE, Emirates Islamic delivered strong results last year, with a six-fold increase in net profit to AED702 million, its highest ever.

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Top Dubai hotel is first to deploy blockchain payment system

Dubai’s Atlantis, The Palm resort has achieved a hospitality-sector first, with the roll out of a blockchain-based payment system for guests.

The resort has deployed the Lucid Pay smart settlement, which will enable guests to pay for services, activities and amenities at the hotel in a secure and easy fashion, reported

The new payment system gives guests at Atlantis either a wristband or a digital wallet to charge all their services during their stay. Details of every transaction are recorded in Lucid Pay, so that in the event of any dispute, both parties are able to see exactly what was charged for. Visibility into transactions will also help in combating fraud.

The solution will also be able to support loyalty applications.

Guests will be able to recharge the wristbands through the wallet application, which is available for iOS and Android, or through charging stations at the resort.

Anthony Lynsdale, vice president, Information Technology, Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai said: “This marks a significant achievement in the hospitality industry and we are proud to be one of the first.”

In future it is planned to extend the payment system to third-parties, so that guests can pay for events and services at other venues and charge them to their hotel bill.

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Air Arabia shares fluctuate on exposure to Abraaj funds

Air Arabia swung between gains and losses after the airline disclosed exposure to funds managed by Abraaj Group, the Dubai-based private equity firm that’s battling creditors.

The shares fell as much as 3.8 percent in Dubai before rising 2.9 percent. Trading volume was at about six times the 30-day average. The stock declined 7.1 percent on Monday.

Air Arabia said on Monday a team of experts is “actively engaged with all stakeholders and creditors involved with the matter” to protect its investments, without providing financial details. Abraaj’s founder Arif Naqvi is a board member at the Sharjah, United Arab Emirates-based Air Arabia.

“We would like to see Air Arabia disclosing all details today; investors can’t continue to trade the stock blindly,” said Tariq Qaqish, managing director of the asset-management division at Mena Corp Financial Services in Dubai. “As an investor, corporate governance seems to be just words on the yearly audited financial reports.”

Abraaj, once one of the developing world’s most influential investors, last week filed for a court-supervised restructuring as it fights allegations of misused funds.

The move comes less than five months after some of its investors, including the Bill Melinda Gates Foundation, commissioned an audit to investigate the alleged mismanagement of money in Abraaj’s healthcare fund.

Since then, the company, which once managed almost $14 billion for institutions and supranational agencies, has faced growing concerns about its viability.

Kuwait’s Public Institution for Social Security earlier this month filed a petition for the liquidation and winding up of Abraaj Holdings after it defaulted on a $100 million loan. A second creditor, Auctus Fund, also filed a petition in the Cayman Islands.

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Widows, divorcees get one-year visa extension in new UAE Cabinet decision

The UAE Cabinet has adopted a decision to extend the visa of the widowed or divorced women residing in the UAE and their children for one year from the date of the divorce or the death of the spouse.

The move is part of the latest legislative decision approved by the Cabinet, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.

The decision grants widows and divorced women and their children a one-year residence without the need for a sponsor. It aims to give women the opportunity to adjust their social and economic status, WAM added.

The resolution will be effective as of the fourth quarter of this year.

The decision takes into consideration the humanitarian conditions of widows and divorcees, and facilitates their stay in the country after the loss of the head of the family, WAM said, adding that it also aims to maintain family stability and social cohesion.

Also Read:UAE to waive visa violation fines

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UAE announces new fee caps on banking services

The UAE Central Bank (CBUAE) has announced an amendment to regulate the maximum limits or “fee caps” charged on banking services such as home loans and late fees for credit cards.

The amendment comes as the CBUAE undertakes more active supervision of the banking sector with the adoption of consumer protection principles, a statement said.

It said fee caps are being used as a tool to protect consumers from anti-competitive and unfair practices. This includes ensuring that entities do not automatically default to using the maximum caps when the actual costs are lower and banks will have to justify their increased costs in order to increase fees.

If consumers notice incidents of non-compliance they are urged to notify the Central Bank immediately.

Of the 43 fee caps affected, 24 fee types are common with the old fee caps but are either at the same level or lower and 19 are new fee types such as those that relate to home loans and credit cards.

CBUAE also instructed banks and finance companies to display the new fee caps on their websites.

Going forward fees charged by the banks will be reviewed annually to ensure that consumers are appropriately protected, CBUAE added in the statement.

The amendment also states that banks will need to notify and seek approval from CBUAE of any planned introduction of a new fee or a change of fees larger than 5 percent.

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