10 signs of toxic culture

Organisation culture is the key driver in a achieving objectives. As Peter Drucker would say “ Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. So, it’s important to watch for the signs that show you’re moving from a healthy to a toxic culture before it’s too late.

Here’s what to look out for in no particular order of importance:

1. High Staff Turnover

An obvious one. Generally speaking,  a rate of 10% is acceptable as it allows for promotions and new blood to be hired without a massive talent and information drain. Beyond this, without knowing why, would suggest you need to look deeper and more likely at your culture.

2. “Deep ending” people is the norm.

Is it common that people are thrown in to new areas of work or projects and “learn to swim” themselves? Careful now! Getting the balance between certainty and uncertainty for people is a tough call. Too much uncertainty and burnout happens, a sure sign of an unhealthy culture.

3. Deadlines are missed.

Deadlines being missed are not just occasional and with good reason but endemic and part of “ how things get done around here”.  Usually this points to a lack of willingness to take responsibility. Again pointing to culture

4. Poor Communication

People keep to themselves or share thoughts and information with just one or two other people. Silo mentality is abundant.

5. Recognition or rewards don’t reflect performance

Recognition and reward form a key component of ones career. If there’s a lack of “fairness” or even perceived fairness people will probably feel unappreciated. This leads to dissatisfaction and negativity. Not what you want in your organisation.

6. Being busy is a badge of honour

Looking busy, rushing about is part of the currency of the organisation.  And more so than actually achieving objectives! Get clear on the straight line relationship between goals, roles and processes

7. Speed Of Action

Things do get done but a lot slower than you would think. Especially when compared to other departments or competitors.

8. Sick days are high

A toxic culture is felt by the employees almost by a process of osmosis.  Sick days are high, mental health issues increase. The environment is said to be unhealthy without really knowing why.

9. No time for relationships or empathy

The organisation emphasis is on getting the job done, personal issues are not considered. There’s little or no time for small talk, celebrations, team or organisation socialising that are necessary to build relationships and team spirit. What well adjusted person wants to spend a lot of time in such an environment?

10. Work hours are rigorously kept to

9 to 5 hours or close to it are always stuck to. Even if there’s an need, however occasionally, to “go the extra mile” if it’s not within the “working hours” it’s not done.

Changing your organisation culture is a challenging process, but it is not impossible. It can be turned around with buy-in from your staff and leadership or find new ones who share your vision and recreate a positive corporate culture.