No organisation ever sets out to have a toxic work culture but every company has the potential to have one. According to a study by Inc, 11.3% of companies reported having a toxic culture.
A toxic company culture is the single greatest issue that can paralyse a workforce. It may be a slow process for it to rear its ugly head but nevertheless it will erode creativity and stifle innovation. In a world where employees have more choice from organisations fighting to attract the top talent and locations becoming more obsolete due to working from home policies and improved technology; no organisation can afford to have a toxic work culture.
So, to ensure your top performers don’t jump ship, you need to realise when your organisation is showing the signs of a toxic work culture. These are the things to look out for:
- The boss acting like a dictator – embarrassing, shutting people down or firing anyone who challenges the status quo.
- A fear culture – everyone is scared to speak up and seem intimidated and often willing to throw their colleagues under the bus just to win a few brownie points off the boss.
- Employee suggestions are ignored – people are afraid to give honest feedback as they aren’t listened to and worry about the repercussions.
- Core values are pointless – what the company says it stands for isn’t reflected in the way the organisation functions, just copy for your website.
- Micromanagement – employees aren’t trusted to make the right decision and autonomy are shut down where everything they do is scrutinised.
- The blame game – management blaming individuals for mistakes rather than a collective and regular punishment is the norm.
- Overworked staff – working extra hours and taking on too much work goes unnoticed and is expected.
- Excessive sick days – unhappy staff will not want to turn up and will call in sick more often.
- High employee turnover – a ‘one in one out’ culture and the organisation always seems to be recruiting for staff that has left.
- Poor Glassdoor reviews – every organisation will have negative reviews from a previously disgruntled employee which is fine. It’s when there is an overwhelming amount of negative reviews, especially from current staff is when you have a problem.
- Little or strained communication – especially between employees and management.
- ‘It’s always been done that way’ – employees do things because that’s how its previously been done and are afraid to adapt to change.
- Gossiping and cliques – small groups of people spreading rumours are what makes the culture rotten from within.
- Aggressive behaviour – when employees are bullied or employees and management have aggressive tendencies.
- Favouritism – this causes office politics and only the hard work of a select few are recognised.
- The wrong fit – some employees may not be a good fit for your organisation due to differing goals, values, and personality.
Just a few of the above points can cause a toxic work culture, but what’s the cure?
Luckily, time is on your side. Creating a toxic culture doesn’t happen overnight and once you spot the first few signs, you can begin to take action immediately. However, it’s the organisation’s leaders that need to drive change for the better. Leaders must show respect, authenticity, integrity, empathy, appreciation, gratitude and trust.
It’s worth addressing a toxic work culture too as it costs businesses millions, if not billions, of pounds in lost revenues or settlements each year due to unhappy and disengaged employees.
It’s not easy to change the culture of a company. You’ll need to identify the major issues, create an achievable plan and most importantly, follow it through. As a result, this plan may include some hard decisions to make such as firing poor bosses who cause some of the toxicity or a complete restructure of the business. Just bear in mind that it’s your employees that are your greatest asset and the way you treat them defines your business. As the saying goes, good employees don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers.
Toxic workplace culture is like rust within metal, you can try and treat it but it will always come back. You need to cut it out at the root and replace it with a fresh sheet of metal.
The HR department is typically responsible for workplace culture, but if the core values and vision aren’t owned by leadership, it becomes a very difficult job for HR alone. To help you to identify whether you have a toxic work culture, use Natural HR to keep track of your Bradford Factor, monitor employee recognition, understand employee feedback, evaluate employee happiness and much more. For a free demo click here.