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Blog Work Culture

10 Signs You have a Toxic Workplace

Rinu Jaison

25 January 2019

7 min read

Have you ever fancied yourself becoming an employee of Google, Twitter, or Netflix? If yes, then you already admire their work culture. Who doesn’t want to be part of such awesomeness? All of them have a common goal: High- Performance Work Culture.

Why is it that the employees of Twitter can’t stop raving about the company’s amazing culture which includes rooftop meetings, paid lunches, yoga classes, and even unlimited vacation, while the employees of Amazon are weeping about the company’s terrifying culture? The answer is simple and I quote Rick Federico – “You have to be at a place that’s more than a paycheck for people”.

Happy workplace equals happy workforce. Click To Tweet

If you forget about your employees, you can forget about your company culture. A happy workforce will have a deep impact on your company’s success. We can all agree that money and other perks have their limits in inspiring true commitment. So what are those aspects that you should stay away from?

Here are 10 warning signs of a toxic work culture you should watch out for.

1. People No Longer Communicate Well

Imagine yourself as a newcomer to a work environment where people don’t joke, don’t smile, don’t communicate enough, and don’t even support one another. Would you want to work in such an environment? No. Chances are, you will never be happy.

workplace communication

An employee needs to be heard, respected and recognized. The first sign of a negative work culture is that there is no proper communication between the employer and the employees, or among the employees. To positively influence your corporate culture, make sure that the team is able to speak their minds freely, and share ideas.

2. Bad Habits that Gets Contagious

Bad habits often spread from the top management to the entry-level employees. If the boss is always late to work, employees might gather that it is okay to be late and stop caring about being punctual. And if the management isn’t strict about completing work on time, the procrastination syndrome arises.

As an employer, you should provide a positive and exemplary company culture for your employees that will motivate and encourage them.  Always remember that your leadership is the touchstone of the entire organization. Thus the employees’ bad tempers and tantrums, tardiness, carelessness, lack of cooperation, and general attitude provide valuable insights into the health of your company.

3. Unhealthy Competition and Rivalry

“Companies that solely focus on competition will die. Those that focus on value creation will thrive.”  – Edward de Bono

It is true that competition breeds champions, but you cannot get warped in the competition. Too much competition will lead to negativity in the workplace. Imagine two best friends fighting tooth and nail for a senior position in the company because the  VP has asked them to battle it out so he can decide whom to choose. This will not only result in the disruption of relationships but also in the escalation of selfishness, anger, distrust, and conflict. A recipe for disaster!

A friendly competition among co-workers is a good thing as it drives employees to work harder, encourages them to share resources and information freely.  They are encouraged to believe that working together is the best way to achieve the goal. This is the first step towards a safe, trusting, and collaborative work environment.

4. Gossip Mongers and the Cool Kids

There are two kinds of people who can taint a work culture: The Gossip Mongers and the Cool Kids.

workplace gossip

Gossip is rampant in most workplaces. Office gossip diminishes the organization’s culture over time and amplifies negativity in the air. If management does not control the situation, cliques eventually form and they start to gossip about the company, their co-workers, and their managers. They will start trash-talking and bullying their peers or their colleagues and make life difficult for them.

There is another set of people called the ‘cool kids’ who always hang out together, have inside jokes, have lunch together, take breaks together and will never let anyone join them. Most people who aren’t part of such office cliques feel lonely and sad. Such behavior may even ruin their whole work environment.

It is important to have an office where everyone gets accepted and has good relationships with most of their colleagues which in turn promotes a more positive corporate culture. At no cost should you encourage gossiping or office cliques among colleagues and employees. Have a word with the keener parties and ensure that they don’t engage in such practices anymore as mostly they are clueless about the intense damage they cause to their peers’ careers and company morale.

5. Employee Engagement is at an All-time Low

Engaged employees are usually more committed, hard-working, and productive. But when the engagement decreases, it only goes on to show that your employees are not interested in their work or your company anymore. They even tend to avoid company events or functions.

employee engagement

Every company wants their employees to be fully engaged. But how?

Your employees will tell you how. Run regular employee surveys to figure out areas that you lack in and get insights on what they expect from you. It could be anything ranging from better policies, more bean bags, a foosball table, a gym or yoga center, or just colorful birthday celebrations. Have special occasions where employees could bring their families or pets to work.  Anything to make them stress-free, happy and engaged!

6. Assuming that Culture is the Same as Perks

Many companies think they have the perfect company culture because they have an amazing recreation center and happy hours. Yet, they fail to notice the group of people near the coffee machine complaining about their workload and bad managers every morning.

True work culture is about what the company means to its employees. Employees need to feel appreciated and respected for their work. They want to work in an organization with a strong sense of purpose and values. Employees who share the company’s vision will be more motivated and will start working towards it. Also, they are least likely to be tempted by a higher raise your competitor might make!

workplace appreciation


7. Poor Management and Leadership

Do you dislike your boss? Does he treat you with disrespect and disdain? This shows that the company is being steered into a negative work culture.

Poor management and leadership skills can have drastic effects and may infect an entire organization. Bad leadership affects your company’s ability to retain employees and lowers employee morale, motivation, and productivity.

It is imperative to have strong leaders with good management skills to positively impact a company in various ways, like reducing turnover, improving morale and empowering employees to be more productive. Management needs to lead by example and create a positive work environment for employees to perform at their best capacity.

Management must always, always lead by example. Click To Tweet

8. Communication is a One-way Street

In a company with a miserable work culture, managers and employees make up two completely distinct groups that seldom interact. When they do interact, it’s a one-way communication in which the manager tells the underling what to do and what not to do.

In such scenarios, the employee is offered little, or no room to convey his thoughts and ideas freely. There exists no give and take policy and the employees feel that they are not treated fairly,  and with enough respect.

9. Productivity is Driven by Fear, Not Fun

Fear is the ultimate culture killer; it can cause hesitation, drive stress, and may even culminate in holding your employees (and your organization) back from reaching full potential. While we all might have encountered a manager or executive that makes Darth Vader look like a teddy bear, it’s not always a singular person or consequence that fosters fear.

workplace fear

Fear can be driven by unclear communication on unrealistic expectations; one-on-one conversations are centered around correction rather than a celebration; focus on what top leaders want to hear rather than what they need to hear, and the reward is only contingent on results – not a balance of results and behavior.

If your organization is driven by fear, it’s time to have those crucial conversations with leaders and start looking for ways to incorporate fun and be energized by a mission.

10. Zero Team Spirit

Do you look around the office and see a sea of sad faces staring out the window wishing of a better life? You are in the wrong place then!

Team spirit is vital in keeping the company culture alive and the lack of it can make the prospects of spending eight hours each day in the same environment very dreary. Employees should make an effort to connect with their team.  The employer should also reach out to the team and make genuine attempts to maintain team spirit.

A good rapport among the team members will not only boost the morale but also the productivity. The employees start to feel that they are an integral part of the organization once they are in a cohesive team. After all, the teams with a high spirit and strong sense of togetherness have better chances of success.

In Summary: Getting Rid of Toxic Workplace

Do you recognize some of these signs at your workplace? If yes, then it’s time for your work culture to come squeaky clean by creating a healthy and collaborative work environment where everyone has the freedom to express and exchange. But how?

The best way to keep these red flags in check and enforce a positive work environment would be to ensure that your employees and you are on the same page. This is where employee pulse surveys come in. By running regular, engaging pulse surveys, you can gain insights on how to move forward. Even if your work culture is affecting your business, always know that you can turn it around and make it positive. These days, there are many survey experts and templates that make the employee survey experience a bliss and not at all tedious.

Your office environment should be such that it feels vibrant and positive and you should enjoy being there. Moreover, you should look forward to each day at the office rather than the alternative of looking forward to leaving as soon as the clock hits five.

Employees can be better contributors to the company when there is an outlet for their thoughts and opinions, like an engagement survey. By engaging the employees with short interactive pulse surveys, the company can monitor its work culture, take the necessary steps to enforce better work policies, and make better, wiser decisions with the employee survey findings.

Remember, you wouldn’t want to spend 40+ hours a week at an awful place. Nor should your employees!

Rinu Jaison

Guest Blogger at SurveySparrow

Avid Blogger. Ardent Conversationalist. Ambitious. Affable. As happy as a clam

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