On this blog, we often talk about the best qualities that create a healthy culture at any company: empathy, compassion, understanding, humility, and curiosity. But what about the red flags that might signal that your leadership team and HR have some work to do? We’ve collected a list of the top 5 things that kill company culture, both immediately and in the long term. Plus, surprise, these culture killers are all connected. If you’re not careful, they could lead to a domino effect of awfulness for any company.
1. No Consequences for Bad Behavior
We know by now that if bad behavior isn’t dealt with immediately, the victims will continue to relive the trauma the longer that the offending person gets away with their actions. The first step to combat that? Have a plan in place for dealing with bad behavior before it happens. Discuss issues openly with HR to ensure that everyone is on the same page with how the consequences of bad behavior will be carried out. If people continue to leave because of unchecked bad behavior, it signals that your company needs a serious overhaul in leadership training. Once your company has gotten to this point, it’s best to pull in the pros. Hire an outside party, like counselors, therapists, or an HR firm, to help your company bounce back in a new way with fresh ideas.
2. Favoritism and Encouraging Competition
While complimenting employees on their hard work is normal and striving for new ideas is often the best part of work, sometimes these typically healthy behaviors can slide into becoming toxic ones. When team members are pitted against one another by leadership, that’s a breeding ground for favoritism and unhealthy infighting. Employees are wising up to these bad behaviours - refusing to work in toxic environments where the priority is not placed on morale but on the company’s bottom line. Still thinking competition creates the best agencies or teams? Well, that antiquated belief is a myth. Instead, teamwork still makes the dream work — and employees who want to stay happy at their jobs will not condone this type of stress for long.
Just like watching each other too closely is bad for morale, so is a boss who leads their team members with fear. Micromanagement robs team members of autonomy while simultaneously stunting growth and productivity. Lately, we’ve been seeing the negative effects of micromanaging in the workplace where employees begin rage-applying or quietly quitting in order to cope with an overbearing boss. Meanwhile the opposite of micromanagement—having more of a hands-off leadership style—can leave team members to thrive on their own, where they are more likely to do their best work.
4. Ongoing Tolerance of Gossip
Sure, there are times when work is stressful and we become frustrated with the project at hand. But it’s important to remember to keep perspective and not gossip about your team members, no matter how tempting. Otherwise, once the difficult part of the problem is over, you might be left with the consequences of what you said turning into a bigger problem. Don’t let gossip take over your way of working and, instead, call it out when it’s happening. Otherwise, employees are likely to find employment elsewhere if anyone is feeling disrespected.
5. Layoffs and Turnover Seem Commonplace
Perhaps the number one killer of company culture is the idea that your job is never safe, no matter how hard you work. When there are multiple layoffs within a year, especially if there is no warning or each layoff is done poorly, employees lose faith in the good parts of their job. They’ll be frustrated by both the layoffs and the increased amount of work on their plates after each layoff. Plus, they’ll likely start looking for a job with more stability. This type of rampant employee stress can be avoided, however, if layoffs are done with extreme care and intention—if they need to be done at all! Be prepared to offer the full range of benefits and ongoing, open communication. Otherwise, if it seems that you don’t care about their jobs, neither will your employees.
TBH, thriving company culture needs the ongoing day-to-day attention that strong leadership teams can provide with the help of outside agencies for fresh perspectives. And when things go awry, we can’t rely on simple Band-Aid solutions. Great company culture takes work and intention and, hopefully, the above list can help you head off problems when spotted.
And, as always, if you’re looking to strengthen your teams with top freelance talent, we can help in that department.