Toxic Company Culture and Key Steps to Change
Building a company culture can be a tricky procedure that influences how a business performs from every aspect. A positive company culture can give you a clear advantage, offering increases in productivity, employee happiness, business agility and organisational drive.
There are many factors that can cause a poor company culture and problems associated with those causes. In a report on Company Culture by Breathe, it was found that toxic workplace culture is costing the UK economy £20.2 billion per year. Toxic culture infects your workplace and can even spread to businesses you deal with, creating poor and inefficient working relationships. This can also promote unethical behaviour inside and outside your business.
This is a brief rundown on some common causes of toxic culture and steps you can take to improve your workplace.
Organisation leaders are highly visible individuals whose actions play a major role in shaping company culture. They are expected to model behaviours and rally employees around the organisation’s values. If leaders’ model poor behaviour such as incivility and bullying, employees will have difficulty following them, they will be disliked or viewed as problematic and this can permeate throughout the business.
Inconsistency & Ambiguity
Problems may arise from inconsistency and ambiguity in company policies. When employees feel as though policies are not applied evenly throughout an organisation, they will view the organisation as hypocritical and inequitable. An example of this may be management not being punishment for something other workers would be.
This can also occur when there is a known gap between a company’s stated values and the real-life workplace culture. Once again, they will view the organisation as hypocritical and employees may also not know what is expected of them which can lead to conflicting values and approaches, causing friction and disorganisation.
Intra-business communication is important for ensuring that employees not only understand their roles and expectations but also have a platform upon which their needs and concerns can be addressed. It is important that communication can go both ways. If needs are not met, employees can feel resentful towards the business which can have a dramatic effect on culture and may cause frustrations to be taken out on each other or clients.
Lack of trust in a business can be caused by a combination of the above issues and others such as a negative perception of the business’ practices and policies e.g., environmental practises, or responses to social issues. This create barriers for employees between each other and leadership and is detrimental to maintaining a positive workplace culture.
Leading from the front
Ensure that organisation leaders know their responsibility to your company’s culture and have been provided the necessary knowledge, skills, and support to lead your organisations from the front. This can include workshops and training to teach relationship and leadership skills and techniques on setting and following standards of behaviour for yourself and others. As said by Peter Psichogios, president of Global Engagement Solutions, “The key to intense employee engagement is to create a culture where leaders are held accountable for developing and enabling others”
Maintain Employee Engagement
Engaged employees are satisfied with their jobs and are enthusiastic, creating a positive work environment. They may also add to cultural improvements by taking an active part in the business. It is important to keep track of employee engagement, as it can fall over time and may require continuous maintenance. There are many ways to track employee engagement including engagement surveys, retention rates, employee satisfaction and performance.
Social responsibility in business dictates that a business should act in a manner that benefits its employees through to wider society. By actively taking on its social responsibility, a business can demonstrate its commitment to treating people, including employees, well, promoting positivity and accountability for employee happiness. This can also increase the perception the employee has of the company, promoting engagement and employment satisfaction. It is important to ensure that if socially responsible policies are enacted, they are followed through. As outlined in the issue of Inconsistency and Ambiguity, failure to act on these policies can create the opposite effect.
Feedback Programs or Infrastructure
As mentioned above, poor communication is a leading factor in toxic workplace culture. Communication must work both ways and can be facilitated through programs or infrastructure. These can provide spaces where employees can express their concerns, inquire about uncertainties, promote ideas and feedback, connect with each other and receive acknowledgement from other colleagues and management. Employee resource groups are a good example where employees can connect, share common concerns, feel appreciated and become more included in the business.
Recognising that your company could improve its workplace culture could bring immense benefits to your employees and its performance. Understand the causes that have brought you to this point and tailor the solutions outlined to suit your needs and you won’t look back.
For inquiries about how we can do this for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at:
0487 410 772
What impact does negative workplace culture have on wider society?, Sarah Benstead, 2 Nov 2021, Breath, https://www.breathehr.com/en-gb/blog/topic/company-culture/what-impact-does-negative-workplace-culture-have-on-wider-society
What is company culture and why is it important?, Aimee O’Callaghan, 29 Nov 2021, Breath, https://www.breathehr.com/en-gb/blog/topic/company-culture/what-is-company-culture-and-why-is-it-important
The Growing Importance Of Social Responsibility In Business, Chastity Heyward, 18 Nov 2020, Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2020/11/18/the-growing-importance-of-social-responsibility-in-business/?sh=483743102283
Roles and Levers for Managing and Changing Culture, APQC, 30 June 2021, https://www.apqc.org/resource-library/resource-listing/roles-and-levers-managing-and-changing-culture