IS YOUR CORPORATE CULTURE TOXIC?
Everyone wants to work for a company with a fun, positive corporate culture. But a toxic corporate culture can drive your best employees away and crush the spirits of those who remain.
It’s not always easy to tell when your corporate culture has soured, but it’s always important to identify and take steps to correct a toxic corporate culture as soon as possible. When companies fail, it’s often the result of an unhealthy corporate culture. Even when a toxic culture doesn’t lead to the outright failure of your organization, it’s going to cost you in the form of high turnover and decreased productivity from an unmotivated staff that just wants to get through the day without incident.
An organization struggling beneath the burden of a poor workplace culture will experience problems with gossip, poor leadership, poor company values, competition between employees and an overall lack of morale. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to improve your corporate culture and make your employees happier and more productive.
Signs of a Toxic Company Culture
An organization that’s having issues maintaining a healthy company culture will struggle to treat employees with the respect they deserve or give them the tools they need to perform their jobs. If employees’ job responsibilities are changing without notice, when they don’t have the resources to succeed and when they don’t have access to guidance and supervision from a manager or mentor, that can breed an unhealthy company culture.
Gossip and troubling talk in general is often a sign of toxicity in the workplace. Even if gossip isn’t malicious, it can still erode trust and prevent effective teamwork. Pay attention to the things your employees say to one another. If they’re saying things like, “We’re supposed to follow this procedure, but no one ever does,” or “Don’t ask questions, just do as you’re told,” or “Just meet your quota,” that’s a sign that something is amiss in your workplace culture.
Employees who are laboring in a toxic workplace aren’t putting the best interests of the company first; they’re putting their own needs first. Everyone’s been through the economic wringer lately and it can be hard for employees these days to trust in a company, but trust in it they must. If your company is holding back information or trying to sugarcoat bad news, that could be a sign of a poor company culture. Transparency is paramount in a company with a strong workplace culture.
You’ll also see employees holding back their own thoughts and opinions in a toxic workplace environment. In a positive workplace culture, communication comes from all directions and from every level of the organization. If communication in your company is one-sided or only seems to be coming from leadership, that could mean that your employees are afraid to express themselves, and that’s a bad sign.
Leadership issues are the final sign of a toxic corporate culture. More often than not, employees follow their managers. When employees are loyal, they’re loyal to their supervisors, not to the company itself. When leadership is weak, the corporate culture suffers and you’ll find your employees quickly fleeing the company for opportunities elsewhere. If times are hard and you’re trying to get by with less, asking more from fewer employees can also poison your organizational atmosphere.
Repairing Your Corporate Culture
A toxic corporate culture can rob your employees of their motivation and send them in search of their next opportunity. The cost of high turnover alone can be enough to sink your company. On average, you’ll pay at least one-fifth of an employee’s annual salary to find and train his replacement.
When things start to feel wrong around the office, take action right away. Engage with your employees, listen to their complaints and find out what aspects of your company culture are bothering them. When they’re fearful for their jobs, ease those fears — or at least soften the blow of bad news — with transparency, honesty and real information. Even when you can’t exactly reassure your employees, straight talk will foster an atmosphere of trust that will hopefully help your company weather the storm.
Do not underestimate the role of good leadership in supporting a positive company culture. Go out of your way to hire and retain good managers who inspire your employees to do their best work. Managers shouldn’t micromanage, but should allow employees the freedom, within reason, to do their jobs as they see fit. When employees feel a sense of ownership over their work, they’re more likely to put the company’s interests before their own, and that helps foster a healthy workplace atmosphere.
A toxic corporate culture is a sign that things are going very wrong with your company. If you sense that your corporate culture is no longer as positive as it once was, you need to take steps to improve it immediately. If nothing else, repairing your workplace culture will help you attract and retain top talent — and it could very well save your company from outright failure.