7 Signs Your Organization Has a Toxic Corporate Culture

Think a negative or less than ideal corporate culture is meaningless?

It’s not.

You may have a small business and not even realize you have a corporate culture, but regardless of whether or not you recognize it, you undoubtedly have a culture, for the better or worse.

A toxic corporate culture hurts everything and everyone

A toxic corporate culture hurts everything and everyone

Corporate culture encompasses so much of how employees feel about their job, their coworkers and their overall environment, and it impacts everything from their general job performance to the turnover rate in a company. Moreover, one of the big terms making waves in talent management and the corporate world right now is employer brand. When you have a poor corporate culture, that’s going to become apparent, whether directly or indirectly, to potential employees.

Most talent management professionals believe good corporate culture begins at the top, with the highest level of leadership and then moves downward through the ranks of the employees, but what if the leaders aren’t able to recognize a problem?

If you’re the leader of a company and you feel there could be something amiss with your corporate culture, look out for these seven red flags:

  1. Employees are constantly on edge about the fear of being fired. If there’s always a sense a firing or a lay-off is lurking just around the corner that means employees don’t have confidence in their job, they probably aren’t performing at their best level, and the motivating factor behind their performance is driven by fear, rather than the desire to succeed and be a key part of an organization. Additionally, when people are working from a place of fear about their job security, they tend to feel less loyal and less valued by their employer, resulting in poorer job performance.
  2. If there’s a sense company leaders are constantly focused on the negative, or fixated on how many problems exist within an organization, rather than being proactive and focusing on solutions, it may represent a larger culture problem.
  3. Companies and corporate leaders that are obsessed with making their workplace appear to be “fun” or “cool” probably have a problem. Yes, we hear a lot these days about those really great offices with gyms and free yoga classes, along with gourmet cafeterias, and while that can be a perk of an office, the primary goal should still be to have a high-performing workforce. If leaders are going too far in the fun direction or overselling these perks, it may signal there’s something that’s off-balance and needs to be made up for in the company.
  4. If there’s a lot of in-office cliques, it can be problematic. Yes, it’s important to have an office where everyone gets along—it can actually promote a more positive corporate culture, but that’s quite a bit different than a cliquey workplace. Cliques inevitably lead to gossip, and that’s one of the biggest problems many organizations face in terms of generalized corporate culture.
  5. Employees who are cutthroat with one another may be part of a toxic culture. It’s important that employees feel motivated and engaged, and one way to achieve that is through competition with one another, but there’s a big difference between a bit of healthy competition, and something that takes over what employees are doing, and becomes more important to them than their actual job performance. If company leaders are facilitating this sense of extreme competition, it can represent a more pervasive problem.
  6. A lack of communication similarly signifies a lack of a strong, viable corporate culture. Often leaders underestimate just how important it is to encourage and foster plentiful communication between themselves and their employees, and that leads to employees who feel like they’re not heard, not respected and not free to share their ideas. Also, when company leaders aren’t willing to openly communicate with their employees it can make them feel distrustful and like there’s a lack of transparency, which impacts loyalty.
  7. Do employees seem like they have no idea what’s expected of them, or like they’re toiling over multiple projects at one time, without any clear picture of how to prioritize those projects? It may not be a problem with the employee- it may be a culture issue. A strong corporate culture is dependent on clear expectations and the ability of leaders to just that—lead.

It’s one thing to recognize signs of a poor corporate culture if you’re an employee, or a potential employee, but what if you’re one of those leaders we speak of? What if it falls on your shoulders to develop and foster the great corporate culture, yet you see many of the red flags listed above?

While organizational change is quite an undertaking, read our continuation of this blog, focusing on the top 7 ways you can improve your corporate culture.

September 30, 2014   Updated :March 17, 2015   company culture, corporate culture, toxic culture   

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