Is Your Workplace Culture Turning Toxic?


The culture that surrounds your team has a huge effect on its performance. Once a workplace culture has turned toxic, it becomes very difficult to recover. Some of the largest organisations in the world have tumbled due to toxic cultures and subsequent loss of brand loyalty.  It goes without saying that company culture problems will affect your results.

So how do you know when you’re on the way to a toxic culture in the workplace? Look for these seven signs of a dysfunctional organisation.

Red Flag #1 – There’s No Communication

CultureWhat do you see when you walk into the workplace? Is the team talking and laughing? Or are people working in silence, with barely a flicker of emotion on their stony faces?

If it’s the latter, then, you may have a workplace culture issue. A completely formal atmosphere indicates that people are unhappy. There’s no positive energy in your workplace, which is something that everybody can pick up on. (Read: Emotional Contagion at work).

Don’t get me wrong, professionalism is obviously important. However, employees spend around 50% of their waking hours (Mon-Fri) in your workplace so must feel comfortable and happy too.

Red Flag #2 – A Disorganised Workplace

A Messy CultureWhen people care about where they are, they want to ensure the space stays clean and tidy. It’s a strange quirk, we know, but it’s not an irrelevant one.

Think about your home. You love it, so you want to make sure it looks the part. This enhances your enjoyment of the property because you feel proud of it. It also makes you happier to spend time at home.

Now, apply that same line of thinking to your workplace. If the workplace has a feel of disorganisation about it, it means people don’t care about it. This is a sure sign that you’ve created a negative workplace culture.

Red Flag #3 – Bad Workplace Behaviours

Everybody has bad habits. That’s unavoidable. However, a toxic workplace culture seems to have the ability to magnify a person’s bad habits.

You’ll find that a lot of your team members procrastinate when they don’t like the workplace culture. They’ll find any excuse not to get their work done until the last minute. If left unabated, these bad workplace behaviours may extend to the point where employees turn up late or take unneeded sick days.

Such behaviour isn’t always the sign of a bad employee. Instead, you may find that the workplace has completely demotivated everybody in it.

Red Flag #4 – A Title is More Important than the Role

Titles and Entitlement CultureThink about how people introduce themselves to you when you meet them at work. Some will talk in-depth about the work that they do. Others will be more concerned with telling you their job title.

The latter situation is a warning sign. When people are more concerned about their titles than the job itself, it shows that they don’t care about their work.

Instead, power seems to be their key motivator. They may use their status to hold themselves above others, which creates an unhappy workplace.

Red Flag #5 – Competition Isn’t Friendly

Let’s assume that your organisation has a sales department. You may think that creating small competitions will help the department to achieve better results.

If your workplace has a good culture, you’ll be right. A little friendly competition doesn’t hurt anybody, plus, it can motivate employees to reach for higher standards.

It’s when those competitions turn sour that you must start worrying. If your employees focus more on competing amongst themselves than they do on reaching the organisation’s goals, you may have to change your workplace culture.

Red Flag #6 – Managers Don’t Interact With Employees

CultureThink about how you talk to your team members. If you find yourself barking orders before storming back to your office, you may have something to worry about.

Employees value effective communication. They want to know that they have a voice in your organisation, and you’re willing to listen to it.

When it comes to listening, most of us are really thinking about what we’re going to say next.  You must be present and genuinely listen with the intent to understand.

When a manager just gives orders, a negative workplace culture develops. Employees will feel as if though they can’t contribute their ideas, which prevents your organisation from flourishing.

Red Flag #7 – Nobody Talks About the Workplace Culture

Acknowledging the fact that a problem exists is the first step to confronting it. You can apply this line of thinking to all areas of life, but it’s particularly important in the workplace.

Creating a great workplace culture is an ongoing process. You will make mistakes along the way. However, you may not know about those mistakes if nobody informs you of them.

Be very wary if you don’t hear about the things you need to improve. This usually suggests that people are too scared to speak out, rather than that you’ve created the perfect workplace.  No news is certainly not good news!

What to Do Next…

Does any of the following apply to your organisation?great managers masterclass

  • You struggle to keep your top talent.
  • Your team constantly make mistakes.
  • People don’t want to discuss their problems with you.

If it does, then you may have created a toxic workplace culture.

The Great Managers MasterClass can help you.

If you want to learn what great managers do differently to grow profitable, sustainable businesses and high-performing teams, for a limited time, you can subscribe to the Great Managers MasterClass for free and learn practical skills that will help you become a great manager. Click here for more info.