Cultural toxicity is something organizations need to pay attention to. A toxic workplace is not immediately visible in organizations which are caught up in their daily run for business growth but does exist in the underbelly. Waiting to raise a ‘stench’ which then becomes increasingly nauseating and difficult to grapple with. Some do try temporary quick-fixes which act more like using a room freshener which just helps you get through the day but not really remove the toxic garbage which lies underneath.
Here are 21 signs that you have a toxic work culture.
- Gossip becomes the primary form of information flow. When your employees rely on and respond to gossip, it is a sign that your work culture is not transparent. You reach a point that your employees are not able to differentiate between real vs. gossip.
- Unsafe to share with fellow employees. When you find that information shared with others in confidentiality or with trust and that is used then against or to manipulate. People tend to then be reserved and do not freely share their thoughts with each other for the fear of being taken advantage of.
- Lack of openness is the result of the above. People unsure how information is being used and unclear about the agenda of others. This leads to suspicion and people start to become closed.
- Lacking in sensitivity when dealing with each other. When you find people making fun of others; bullying or frequently targeting vulnerable people, it is a sign that there exists complete lack of sensitivity. When friendly banter turns into hurtful comments or actions, people tend to withdraw or simply wait for the opportunity to get one back on the others.
- Lack of integrity when you find people don’t walk-the-talk. Especially so, when your Managers are perceived to be preaching one thing and practicing the other. People don’t stick to their promises or commitment and are not honest with each other. You also find that people have put on a mask and are not authentic in their transactions with others.
- Lack of empathy and listening is a major sign of a toxic work culture. When employees find that their managers are not in a mood to listen or understand their views or situation, very limited feedback flows. Managers in such organizations take decisions which are purely based on their own agendas or perceptions leading to resentment. People in such places do not find themselves included and wait or pray for failure of every decision the manager makes.
- Lack of feedback amongst the employees. When you find that people find it more convenient to gossip or back-bite and are not direct in their feedback. When managers do not seek regular one-on-one feedback from their team. Worst still employees find that their feedback is not valued or worked upon. Lack of feedback – both giving and receiving leads to a large blind spot in your work and it is a toxic time bomb waiting to explode.
- Disconnect with core values and the actions When employees feel that the core values are just in print and on their website and not visible in the actions of their colleagues. They do not completely understand the values and the related behaviors and are left to interpret it for themselves.
- Managers don’t live by or demonstrate values When managers themselves either not demonstrate or worse take actions which are against the core values, people stop believing in their communication.
- People not owning up their responsibility and frequently take cover by ‘blaming’ others or start externalizing problems. You also find that in toxic workplaces people are tentative or unsure of taking up new responsibilities and ownership of their roles. They are unsure also of the boundaries of their work and the authority they have to make an impact.
- Strong Clans and cliques exist with boundaries when you find that there are office cliques and clans which are tight groups within teams. You find that such clans are also heavily guarded and do not allow access to others easily. It starts to become like an exclusive club where membership is not easy to get. You see visible signs of such cliques in the office cafeteria.
- No incentive for collaborating when you find a lot of talk about the need to collaborate but all rewards and recognition is given to individual performance. People tend to compete and find no incentive in working with each other.
- Employee attrition more than industry average clearly indicates that there is something the management is not sensitive about and / or are not seeking regular feedback. It also indicates that the managers lack sensitivity in dealing with people issues. It’s now cliched to say that employees don’t quit organizations, they quit their boss.
- Long work hours are the order of the day and employees are found to be working late almost regularly. You see visible signs that employees are stressed and have started to report sick frequently or show signs of irritability at the end of each work day.
- Little or no attention to employees personal development when almost all developmental efforts are seen to be only benefitting the company and not the employee. The question people have started to ask is “What’s in it for me?”
- People skipping scheduled meetings or company / group events when this starts to happen it is a clear indication that your employees are feeling disengaged and have started to prioritize differently from group needs. It is also indicates a general lack of motivation. When you find that meetings are long and often not providing the intended outcomes. When people find that they are exhausted at the end of a meeting and complain that they could have done something other than being there, then it is a clear sign of disengagement.
- Silos when teams and people operate in ‘silos’. They confine themselves to just their work and are not really concerned about the impact their actions have on other parts. They don’t look for points of collaboration or sharing and learning across teams. You find that there exists several processes which are repeated leading to duplicity.
- ‘Can’t or ‘cannot’ being the first response to any change when you find that people use all their creative faculties to frequently come with reasons as to how things can’t change or cannot be done. People are ‘problem’ than ‘solution focused in their work.
- Limited off-the-work socializing amongst employees when you find that employees confine their relationships purely to business and rarely socialize outside of office. They are distant with no bonding which carries back to work as well.
- Employees always asking for more from the company when people in your company are frequently asking the management for more. You find that rarely do people in your workspace think about what they can do and bring as value to the company. Always complaining about the ‘lack of’ than focused on what they ‘already have’. They are never satisfied.
- Boredom has set in and people feel that their work has turned into a routine and they are doing the same things again and again; day-in and day-out. They don’t find the work challenging their abilities and there is no excitement or fun at work. People are always talking about how coming to work is a drag and start looking forward to the weekend by the middle of week itself. Your people suffer from the typical ‘Monday morning’ blues.
If you wish to find out if your workspace is toxic and is taking a toll on your employees, its time for conducting an ‘Energy Audit’ of your company. Write to me if this interests you…