Every day, I walk into companies with some form of a fractured culture. The sad reality is that most of the issues I witness could be fixed with some self-awareness and changes to your leadership.
From poor leadership and low morale to hiring the wrong employees, the symptoms of poor cultures often run deep, but surprisingly all stem back to leadership. Many businesses have a toxic culture, but their leaders do nothing to stop it. Some don't know how to fix it, and others don't care. Learning how to recognize the temperature of your culture is the first step toward creating a work environment where everyone can work at their full potential.
If you're business has any of these seven symptoms, it's time to take a good hard look at your workplace so you can start healing your culture:
1. Your business is full of gossip.
No business can afford to have gossips on staff. While their personalities aren't always malicious, their negative conversations about their coworkers' personal lives are bad for morale and quickly create a work environment that replaces encouragement and cooperation with petty drama.
This is especially toxic for sensitive employees who will be deeply hurt when they discover what others are saying about them. Always create policies that discourage gossip and inspire your employees to work together to meet company goals.
You need to make sure, though, that your policy isn't too overbearing. Your employees might rebel if you force them to behave in an unnatural way.
2. Your leadership habits suck.
Businesses act a lot like families, and your employees will imitate leadership just like children copy their parents. If your leaders are lazy, incompetent, or mean, don't be surprised when this trickles down to your other employees.
Finding out if your leadership team is a bad influence isn't always easy, though. Leaders will often develop strategies, like blaming others or giving away their responsibilities, to hide their own behavior. This is why it is so important to create a culture of open communication, where employees at all levels feel that they have a voice and will receive recognition if they uncover toxic behavior, no matter its source.
3. No one raves about your business culture.
If employees love working for your business, they will rave about it. Not only will they want to share their experiences with friends, but they might even try convincing them to apply for a job so they can work together.
This isn't true for a toxic culture. Since most unhappy employees don't like thinking about work, they won't bring it up during their personal time or share their experiences with coworkers.
This is especially obvious to job seekers during an interview. They might ask why no one is talking about the business culture and assume that it is because the work environment isn't healthy. Many businesses are unaware of how many valuable employees turn down a job offer because something feels wrong during the hiring process.
4. Your employees look miserable.
It's surprising how many companies I've walked into where the people at their desks genuinely look unhappy. Why? Shouldn't you go to a job you love? Many businesses don't notice that their employees are unhappy or uncomfortable because their feelings aren't a priority.
A healthy work environment should look and feel natural. If your employees are naturally talkative, they will talk to each other when they can, filling your workplace with conversations. Even an office full of quiet people will have its own energy--the exact opposite of an anxious and lifeless workplace.
5. Your best employees are jumping ship.
Few employees want to work for a business that doesn't treat them well, either through policy or hiring decisions. This is especially true for employees with valuable job skills since they can easily find a job somewhere else.
If your business has a lot of employee turnover you should check to see who is leaving and why. This will help you figure out if your business culture, or something else, is to blame.
6. Ideas don't matter.
Communication is vital to the success of any business, and this is where many fail. When employees don't feel like their ideas matter, they will stop sharing them and may even quit out of frustration and dissatisfaction with their work.
If your leaders do everything their way and dismiss other opinions, it is time to get new management that values the insights of every employee. Keep in mind that no one knows how to run your business perfectly, and hiring leaders that use the strengths of every employee to meet company goals should always be a top priority.
7. No one wants to hang out with each other.
Employees that don't enjoy each other's company won't want to spend time together. People don't have to like each other to work well as a team--but low participation in optional social events could signal that something is wrong with your management team, hiring practices, or policies.
Having a failing business culture is no reason to panic. It's easy to fix once you recognize where the pitfalls are, which employees and policies are causing the problem, and why you're struggling to keep the right team.
Any business can overcome a failing culture if they are willing to do what's necessary to fix it. Ask the right questions, focus on building a better culture and change what's broken.