Building a positive culture is—without a doubt—one of the most challenging aspects of management. In fact, more than 60.4 million Americans are impacted from being bullied at work. The real numbers are much higher than that, as only half of bullying at work is ever reported. When it is reported, 71% of employer reactions and 60% of coworker reactions were harmful instead of helpful to the targeted employee.

Do you have a toxic company culture? 

Part of the difficult part of building a positive culture is recognizing when you have a problem. There is no single definition of a “bad” company culture. All companies are different, and so is every culture.  Sometimes a trait or trend in one company might seem inappropriate in another.

poor company culture
  • There is a lot of gossip or social cliques at work.
  • Managers and team members display aggressive or bullying behavior to other people.
  • There is poor communication and unclear expectations within a team.
  • Your people take excessive sick days or show fatigue.
  • Your people are obsessed with work and display workaholic behavior.
  • Employees and management have frequent conflict, or no relationship at all.
  • There are unsafe or morally questionable working conditions.
  • The boss has a “my way or the highway” approach and isn’t interested in input from others.
  • Most individuals at work prefer to work alone rather than in a team.
  • Your people are concerned with keeping information to themselves and not sharing resources with others.
  • People are quick to find blame in others rather than focused on the solution.
  • Employees are jumping ship more often than usual
  • You often find yourself resolving conflicts, dealing with missed deadlines, or correcting errors.

Toxic Culture Culprit

Sometimes it’s easy to see the symptoms without truly understanding where the problem is coming from. At the root, poor company culture comes from three things:

1. A Lack of Core Values

Your company core values act as seeds that sprout into your company culture. Unfortunately, only about half of employees in the U.S. even know what their company core values are. If you don’t have solid core values, you’ll have a shaky culture at best.  If you haven’t been clear on your core values yet, there’s a good chance that is the main culprit behind your poor company culture.

2. Incompetent Management

The old adage “change starts at the top” still holds true. If your managers don’t care about your culture or your core values, everyone suffers. Sometimes it’s just a handful of managers ruin it for everyone else. Other times its old management that disagrees with younger management views. Either way, the way you lead impacts the entire group, and the trickle-down effect is felt throughout the company.

3. Inadequate Feedback

This is also a product of careless management, but when employees don’t get any feedback or critique of their work, they stop caring. When your employees don’t care about their performance, the success of their team, or the growth of the company; you have a major culture issue.

5 Steps to Fixing a Toxic Company Culture

Mending a poor company culture is about realigning your priorities. It’s not something that will change overnight, and it will always take time and practice, but it starts with priorities.

  • Create or Reassess Your Core Values

We already learned how company culture and values are connected. It’s time to take a look at your core values, reassess each of them. Brainstorm a list of characteristics your ideal company has and see how they align with your core values. If your company doesn’t have core values, this is a great place to start. Once you have established your core values, make them known, publish them on your website, hang them in the office, and align your choices, hiring decisions, and company goals with your core values.

  • Survey your Employees 

If you need a real honest look at what’s happening in the office, it’s important to ask those who are there. Employee satisfaction surveys can provide valuable insight. Include questions like, do you enjoy your company’s culture? Do you feel valued for your contributions? Do you feel connected to your coworkers? Ask your employees about their opinions and general perspectives about the existing company culture. Make this survey an annual event to keep a pulse on your company culture.

  • Start with the Managers

Fixing a broken culture begins with the top. Middle and first-line managers must buy-in, to the company values and reflect them in their day-to-day actions and decisions. If you have managers who aren’t interested in the core values, they can destroy all your best efforts.  The mistake most leaders make is surveying their employees and then doing nothing with the information. A true culture change only occurs when honest feedback is taken seriously.

  • Bring in A Third Party

Very few employees trust their own HR department. In fact, Team Blind, a community workplace app, found that  70% of employees don’t trust their HR department. Sometimes, it’s difficult to fix company culture from within. Bringing in a third party can identify toxic behavior and attitudes that are deeply ingrained and see toxic individuals for who they really are instead of who they try to portray themselves to be. A third-party culture audit can foster honesty in your people without fearing retaliation.

  • Hire the Right People

Keep your core values in mind during the hiring process. You can train skills, but you can’t teach values. Look for people that have the qualities and characteristics you value.

  • Reinforce Positivity 

Reinforcing positive behaviors by rewarding your employees. This may be something as cliché as the employee of the month, or it could be a handsome cash bonus. Rewards of any kind, even just recognition will motivate your employees to align with the company values.

Culture isn’t Constant 

Your company culture exists on many levels. It’s not just how you act, it’s what you truly believe. As your company evolves, so does the culture. Company culture is fluid, changing, and evolving. It’s either getting stronger every day or slowly falling apart. Every positive culture takes years of patience and consistent, positive efforts. By focusing on the problem, not just the symptoms – you can initiate real change in your company.