Toxic cultures

It is often said that people don’t quit companies; they quit toxic workplace cultures.

If you haven’t worked in one yourself, you’ve probably heard stories of what it’s like in a toxic culture. Nothing, not even a great salary, will keep someone in that environment.

A toxic culture can kill a company. It stifles creativity and innovation. It kills motivation and productivity. It ruins relationships because there’s no trust between people, especially the team and management. People are bullied from the top and they bully each other. It costs you the best employees and it damages those who are left.

Toxic is the right word. It’s poison for your business.

What might a toxic culture look like?

  • No one will make a decision in case they suffer the consequences if it goes wrong.
  • Leaders tell people what to do and when to do it without considering everything else their people have to do at the same time.
  • There’s a lot of finger-pointing and blame-shifting.
  • People who are different aren’t welcome.
  • Anyone who works well is socially excluded.
  • There’s no originality
  • People who make suggestions for change are frowned upon and ignored.
  • Nobody puts a foot out of line.
  • There are few smiles and no chatter.
  • Absenteeism rises along with complaints about harassment or bullying.
  • Workers seek damages for stress.
  • Your best people leave.

These are a few examples and I’m sure you can think of more.

A toxic culture is a failure in leadership.

It doesn’t matter how strong your brand or how clear you vision and values if you don’t live up to them.

Toxicity starts at the top. It may not be deliberate, but it usually begins with weak leadership. As I mentioned in the previous post (link) when I referred to the problems with our banks and their culture, CEOs might not have created the culture, but they allowed it to exist.

Is a toxic culture flourishing in your workplace under your watch?

Other than looking at the HR statistics, how much do you know about the culture in your workplace?

At senior levels, it’s easy to become separated from the “real world” in your company. As a strong and inspiring leader, you always need to be out among your people with a finger on the pulse.

Have you ever considered surveying your people to gauge the culture? Make it anonymous so people can say whatever they want to, safe in the knowledge that there will be no negative consequences. That’s how you’ll get honest information.

Until you know what’s going on amongst your people, you can’t have a clear picture of your culture.

Next week I will offer some ideas on how to change the culture of your company. If you find the toxicity levels in your culture are high, it’s a post you’ll want to read.

In the meantime, talk to me if you’re considering auditing your company culture.  I’m here to help.

linda murray toxic cultures
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