Obvious Signs of Toxic Organizational Culture


Among the first signs of a problematic organizational culture is when you realize that working at the desk and getting tasks done actually are the easiest parts of the job. Toxic culture is the result of and intensified by politicization, poor communication, lack of creativity, and dreadful overall vibes at workplace. Few people may have any sense of belonging in the organization; the only thing that keeps everybody coming every day is the payroll rather than the passion for the profession. Leaders have the biggest influence on organizational culture.
 One employee may be the cause, like a rotten apple mix with good ones. This is where thoughtful leadership actions with maintaining individual human dignity comes in. It is both how we say things and what we say that can have the biggest difference. Coaching is one of the most important jobs of any leader, but too many leaders may be too busy to do it and do it well, if they are not looking for opportunities to save employees and build a positive organizational culture. It is much easier to maintain a positive organizational culture than it is to fix one that is damaged by an individual who may not recognize how his/her actions may be affecting others.
 Not all employees are to blame for such a poor working environment or negative organizational climate. There are usually at least a small number of employees who still wish everything to be more positive or just less unpleasant, otherwise no one notices how toxic the organization culture has become. Some of the most obvious signs of a toxic organizational culture are as follows:
 ·         Interaction is a rarity: when people rarely speak to each other beyond simple expression of greetings in the morning or unless they really need to talk about something important related to jobs, it appears as if no one belongs to that place. They may look unhappy because they are. Jokes, smiles, and small talks make a comfortable workplace where employees and leaders enjoy a genuine pleasure of working together to achieve common goals.
 ·         Hierarchy is all the rage: people are growing overly concerned about how high they have climbed the hierarchical ladder or the perks that come with particular positions. Internal competition to be the first to get promoted is good, but it is not the only thing that matters. When promotions are the biggest concern above all else, teamwork is difficult to nurture.
 ·         Too many groups: divisions and departments ensure better workflow, but things may appear dreary when there are too many groups of people or employees who don’t (or are not willing) to interact with each other, sometimes in the same department. Social inner circles at the workplace have become narrow, hence limited in ideas and perspectives.
 ·         Employees and managers belong to different circles: it gets worse if employees and managers belong to separate groups that rarely communicate at workplace.  It is common for leaders to create an “Us vs Them” environment by holding their title over people or in the way that they talk to employees, rather than WITH them. When interactions happen, it is a one-way communication when managers tell employees what to do. Employees generally like to feel included in the decision-making processes and engaging them as equals tends to help them feel more valued. A satisfied employee generally is more productive than one who is being told what to do.
 ·         Everyone is a harsh critic: communication doesn’t happen quite often enough, but when it does the subject is failures of others. Accomplishments of any sort are treated with contempt, especially those credited to others. Leaders must look for opportunities to praise people for meeting and exceeding company expectations. Work is important to us. Help make everyone know how much of what they do makes a positive difference!
 ·         Ineffective formal communication channels: regular briefings or scheduled meetings and formal written announcements should remain the most effective channels of communications across organization. In a toxic culture, employees are no longer attentive in regular discussions; instead they rely on informal conversation with co-workers to stay up to date with important information. Having meeting meetings that do not accomplish much feels like a waste of time, especially if an email or phone call could have gotten the job done better. Respect people’s time and make sure that official communication goes through the right channel!
 ·         Employees’ have no chance to share ideas: if the manager dictates every single action and micromanages all tasks and projects, it defines the relationship as such. The best working relationships between leaders and employees should fell respectful and two-way. Employees are smart and usually will contribute more if invited to do so. If employees are not given the opportunity to propose ideas or develop creativity on the job, they may want to look for work at other companies and potentially make the competition stronger with the help of the training your company provided. Trusting relationships are built with the leader engaging respectfully with employees and extending trust first. Listening is one of the leader’s most important tools!
 As a leader, you may sense that the culture of the organization has somewhat gone off course, although it can be quite difficult (but not impossible) to figure out where and how the degradation started. Leaders should be the first to notice any sign of a toxic culture and at the forefront to address the issue. However, culture (even the toxic ones) exists because people share similar ideas and behaviors. It is important to get people to see the problems first and make them understand why the condition is bad for the organization before together you can devise a plan to restore order that actually works for everyone. Remember to maintain the employee’s self-esteem, give him/her the opportunity to save face and feel respected, as well as genuinely valued. Every challenge is an opportunity to make an employee a significant asset to the organization. How you treat employees can earn respect for you as a leader and significantly transform the organizational culture to be as productive and profitable as possible. Every person must feel that they matter! They do of course!
Make good choices and have a great day! Only you get to choose how you feel about it!
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Dr. Paul Gerhardt is a skilled leadership and diversity training who builds customized workshops online or at your workplace. He is a tenured professor of management. He is a diversity and leadership well-respected and trusted trainer who helps organizations get amazing returns on their training investment. Visit www.SupervisionEssentials.com for more great free articles and to learn more about Leadership Training. Dr. Gerhardt is the author of several publications available on Amazon.com, including Diversity at Work, The Diversity King; Leadership Lucy and the Leadership Handbook. Consider inviting Dr. Paul Gerhardt to do customized leadership or diversity training at your organization. Most organizations find that diversity and leadership training by the right trainer yields a significant instant return on investment. You can get your FREE COPY of the Leadership Handbook by clicking this link: http://bit.ly/LeadershipHandbook



Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.