Gossip, back stabbing, sniping, snarky mean-girls and corporate bullies all contribute to toxic work environments. When there is a corporate culture of fear and intimidation, it’s toxic. Of course, no one would ever own up to doing any of those things or being a contributor to corporate cesspool.
Often times, the results produced in this type of organizational culture include:
- Increased employee turnover – usually it’s the higher performers who leave because they’re marketable
- Low customer satisfaction scores
- Loss of major accounts or funders
- Increase in accidents and absenteeism
- Low productivity; Poor quality and re-work
Here are some signs that the organizational culture is toxic and dangerous to organizational and employee health:
Blame and Excuses
People spend more time blaming or making excuses than finding solutions
People are critical of possible solutions or of people who are trying to be positive
Lack of clear goals and objectives or not asking for them
Accepting, ignoring or denying poor performance
Tolerating bad behavior, gossip and negativity
Waiting for someone else to speak up or take positive action.
To shift from a culture of negativity to one of accountability takes courage. When there is alignment and camaraderie around negative thinking, a person has to be brave in demonstrating accountability in the face of adversity. It takes courage to create new conversations about high quality, performance, and teamwork. The first step is to have courage in acknowledging the problem and having the courage to take actions that will change the culture.
Planting Seeds of Change: One Person at a Time
People are resistant to change, even when the environment is unhealthy and unproductive. The key is to identify a few people who are not willing to be victims of the culture and who want to be part of making things better.
Changing organizational culture can not be mandated. It happens one person at a time. As more people take accountability for their contribution to the environment, good or bad, there can be a ground swell of change.
Usually an organization needs outside training or facilitation to define and adapt to a new culture and to help people adopt new behaviors. Finding the right outside resource will provide not only a fresh perspective and credibility, but tools for people to take ownership of the process and make it sustainable. A cookie cutter model probably won’t work. People need to be empowered with the process.
Back to Courage – Again…
Implementing organizational change from a toxic culture to one of teamwork and accountability takes time. There are a lot of similarities to the five stages of the grieving process: Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Despair and Acceptance.
It takes courage to go the distance and acknowledge it may take 12 to 18 to 24 months to shift the culture, including aligning people, processes and systems with the new environment. Hard decisions will need to be made. Some people may not make it and be asked to leave. Others may de-select. The important thing is that there is a team that is aligned and committed to the future success and health of the organization and its employees.