Guest Contributor

Identifying and Correcting the Toxic Culture in Your Business

By | Jared Jaureguy

Today, job-seekers are drawn to positions with companies that not only require their technical skills and meet their salary needs but also align with their beliefs about how a business should operate. For example, many people want to work for a company that values principles like sustainability, diversity and inclusion. Because of this, it’s clear that ethos is more important to sustaining human capital than ever before. Company culture refers to the personality of an organization, and well-cultured companies apply healthy, positive, uplifting business and leadership philosophies. When the culture begins to shift in a negative direction and becomes toxic, it can very quickly tank a once-thriving establishment.

5 Signs of Toxic Corporate Culture

If you’re actively engaged as a manager or business owner, then you should be attuned to changes that could affect the overall health of your company. Your office may be doing great today, but unless you are vigilant in your leadership, minor problems can lead to major fiascos quicker than you think. Here are five signs indicating toxic culture within an organization.

  1. Increasing Turnover Rates

Every organization experiences organic turnover as new hires are onboarded and existing employees move on or up in the company. However, if your staff renewal rates begin to skyrocket despite fair and competitive compensation, then your company may have a serious culture problem. Qualified workers want to work where they feel valued and respected.

  1. Employee Discontent

You may be following human resource laws to the letter, but your employees are gradually becoming dissatisfied with the company. A toxic corporate culture affects how workers view the value of their contributions, and their feedback will reflect discontentment. 

  1. Performance Decline

Employee engagement is fundamental to productivity and performance. When culture declines, even rock star workers can disengage, ultimately costing your company a lot of money in lost profit. 

  1. Ineffective Teams

Teamwork is the backbone of productivity, and HR places great emphasis on building effective teams. Therefore, when your organization fails to meet expectations and correct errors, the likely culprit is a breakdown in peer communication. If company culture shifts from collaboration to competition, your team members will cease sharing workloads, brainstorming together and supporting one another. 

  1. Water Cooler Gossip

The most classic sign of a toxic workplace is office gossip. Negative opinions and experiences at work rarely stay hidden, especially when employees no longer feel safe and secure in their jobs. 

Now that you understand how to recognize a culture problem, you can determine whether your business downturn is

due to a culturally negative operating environment. 

Is Your Company Culture Toxic?

It can be difficult to decide if the problems within your office have reached a level deserving of the label “toxic.” Maybe only a few of the criteria fit your situation, or perhaps you’ve been working to improve morale for a while with limited success. Every company has a unique approach to culture, and what is considered appropriate for other corporations may not be right for your business. A few universal red flags for organizational toxicity include:

  • Poor morale
  • Tension in the office air
  • Communication failures
  • Toxic competitiveness
  • Frequent employee conflicts
  • Friction between management and subordinates

Once you’ve discovered that you do indeed have a toxic workplace environment affecting your business’s bottom line, you can begin to rebuild the culture by facing these challenges head-on. 

6 Steps To Correct Toxic Company Culture

While company morale can degenerate rather quickly, rebuilding a healthy business culture is a marathon, not a sprint. With a lot of patience and a narrow focus on communication and employee relations, you can turn it all around. Here are six steps to repairing your broken company culture. 

  1. Reestablish the Core Values of Your Company

Think back to the values upon which you based your business; they are directly connected to your company culture by way of policy and procedure. Research some of the big names in your industry and identify their core principles. Do your values align with theirs? Don’t do this exercise alone. Use company culture surveys to consult your colleagues and employees about their own ideals and compare them to those you set forth. Your personnel will let you know if they are unsatisfied with the current cultural climate, as well as if they feel heard and appreciated at work. At the conclusion of your analysis, you should have a complete list of standards for your business.

  1. Communicate Those Values to Employees

Having established principles does no good if you don’t tell stakeholders and employees what they are. You’re asking the people who make up the company to adopt these values and apply them to business processes, so avoid confusion with up-front transparency. List and explain the core values in the “About” section of your website for potential applicants to read through. Display them in prominent office spaces and discuss them in meetings. Continuously emphasizing the reasons for doing the job will bring focus and unity to a team with a shared belief in the mission of the company, and you’ll ensure all new-hires fit the brand. 

  1. Empower Managers

Fixing broken culture starts at the top and trickles down. It’s important to have passionate and engaged leaders running your day-to-day operations. Meet with your managers or supervisors to ensure their leadership methods reflect the core values set forth by the company. Clearly define your expectations, set the bar high, and if they can’t meet it, consider a different way forward with the established foundation in mind. 

  1. Strengthen Workplace Positivity

Now that everyone is on the same page with the company’s vision, it’s time to implement incentives for excellent performance. Who doesn’t appreciate an opportunity to earn a bonus? Rewarding your employees reinforces positive behaviors and gives workers a reason to uphold the standards you require

  1. Only Hire the Right People for the Job

From here on out, you should have a clear idea of who you want working for you. Actively recruiting the right people to join your teams increases productivity while decreasing turnover, and your other employees will be grateful for the acquisition of quality talent. Teams made up of skilled personnel with similar values, a common goal but unique capabilities are the gold standards in any enterprise. When interviewing candidates, focus on personality traits, leadership philosophies and communication skills as well as technical knowledge. Remember that practical abilities can be learned through training, but character is innate. 

  1. Reevaluate Cultural Health Frequently

Once you’ve established great company culture and built a happy and healthy workplace, complacency is not an option. Remain engaged with your teams, and continue to gauge responses to culture in interviews and employee satisfaction questionnaires. Over time, the core values may shift to reflect the ever-changing beliefs of society at large. To be successful, you’ll need to adapt and adjust, but keep the lines of communication open so your positive environment remains intact. Consistency and patience are key to staying on top of culture management. 

The personality of your organization is important to its profitability and competitiveness. It is not easily established or maintained, but by focusing on the foundation, encouraging growth and addressing underlying problems, you can assure effective and inspiring outcomes. Continuous attention and investment into human capital will make your company next-level ready before you know it. 


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