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5 Signs You Have a Toxic Organizational Culture

Written by Chris Hallberg on November 3, 2016

Company Culture

glass bottle of blue poison: toxic cultureEveryone likes to think that their office is highly effective. But, in a place where employees do not feel safe and valued, you are not going to get the sort of feedback and innovation that makes a company a winner. How confident are you about your company culture? Here are several common signs of a toxic organizational culture.

1. Employees' Primary Goal Is Avoiding Trouble

Do people tiptoe around to avoid being yelled at, reprimanded or even fired? Does everyone pretty much keep their head down so that they don't attract any undue notice?

If people are afraid, they aren't going to take any risks, which means that you will only get the minimum out of them and that they will never go above and beyond. Employees need to feel like they can try new things without risking getting in trouble.

People who feel like they are always in danger of being treated badly are not going to be motivated to give you their all. You need to create a culture of appreciation to get more out of the people who work for you.

Employees who feel safe are confident to stretch their abilities. They will let you know if they see a problem, rather than hiding it so that they aren't blamed. They will give you the performance that can increase your revenue and make your organization more competitive.

2. Everybody Gets "The Mondays"

Do employees all seem to drag themselves into the office every Monday? People who are working in toxic environments live for the weekends and dread the moment that it is time to go back into the office.

At a healthy company, people are happy to be there. They feel challenged and appreciated. People who are happy and working for a great company are far more likely to go above and beyond. They will welcome new challenges and relish the opportunities to excel.

If everyone seems irritated and discouraged when the weekend is over, it is time to change what you are doing. Examine what factors might make people consider work their least favorite place to be. Work to change the factors that are making people feel unmotivated and avoidant. 

3. Employees Don't Share Feedback

Do you find that the people who work for you rarely share insights about how a process should work better or give you ideas about opportunities that you are missing?

Employees who are in a toxic workplace are unlikely to share ideas. They may be too burnt out to think creatively. They may be too discouraged, or they may be afraid that their ideas will be met with derision or indifference.

It is vital to your company's future success that you have the full resources of the people you have hired. Make sure they feel that they can make suggestions without you or other people in management feeling that they are overstepping. Make it so that they have the spare energy to think of creative solutions to problems and that they are engaged enough to share their ideas for new opportunities.

If people are afraid to put in their two cents, consider creating an anonymous channel where they can share concerns. Whether this takes the form of an online feedback form or a physical message drop, take what you see there into consideration and ensure that there are no negative repercussions for those who speak their minds.

You should also ensure that people who share their great ideas more directly are rewarded. If people feel that it is worth something to you and that you value their input, they are far more likely to start thinking creatively. Rewards don't have to be monetary; perks like extended lunch breaks and public praise go a long way.

4. Decisions Are Poorly Communicated

Are employees kept up to date on new decisions, or do they only find out that a rule has changed when they run afoul of it?

To do effective change management, employees need to be in on the discussion from the start. They need to know how their positions and duties might be affected. They need an opportunity to give input and have it considered. By making sure that you have transparency at every step, you can better ensure that your employees feel secure and that the changes you make are effective and beneficial for the company and for the people who work there.

5. You're Providing Misleading Information

It is imperative that you are honest with your employees, rather than sweeping the negative information under the rug. Issues that you feel could cost you important members of your team need to be addresses publicly.

A toxic company culture does not fix itself; it will not change overnight. Cleansing toxicity from the environment takes a commitment to change and a great deal of time rebuilding trust and channels of communication.

Next Steps

 

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This article originally appeared on the Traction, Inc. blog on September 5, 2016.


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