The Fastest Ways Leaders Kill Your Company Culture
How do bad leaders kill your company culture? How to stop the behaviors that can kill a company culture? How to spot a fraudulent company culture?
Culture is critical for your business’s long-term growth and profitability. A culture of trust is the difference between success and failure.
This is a factToxic company culture often starts at the top in the active bad behavior by those who have responsibilities. To get the root of the problem follow the toxicity wherever it leads because people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.
Healthy companies don’t happen by accident. They’re the result of an engaged leadership that creates a good company culture.
An organization without trust is inefficient and is often stagnant. This results in a sluggish pace and an unhealthy attachment to old business models that can kill a company in today’s economy.
For some leaders, a strong workplace culture is a no-brainer.
You treat employees with respect, communicate well, inspire others to do the same, and the whole company will reap the rewards. But some leaders, it seems, actually want their company to sink.
Consider if you’re guilty of any of culture-killing moves, and if you are, cut it out.
Given the importance of company culture, you want to keep your eyes on the multitude of ways that office culture can be improved. A poor work environment, combined with inflexible policies, can lead to an unsatisfied workforce and a toxic corporate culture.
Here is a list of the fastest ways to kill company culture.
Today we’re exploring seven things that can kill a company culture, and how to help prevent them draining momentum from your efforts to improve your organization’s culture. Keep reading to make sure you’re not accidentally making one of these grave mistakes.
They Encourage Gossip
Gossip is simply an element of the human experience — but its one that managers frequently ignore. Additionally, depending on the gossip, and whether it is about personal matters or the company itself, some managers may even engage in it.
Leadership should curb gossip whenever possible by making sure to disseminate and broadcast information thoroughly and effectively.
If certain employees are at the root of the workplace gossip machine, employ coaching, progressive discipline, and warnings to stop the behavior. For example, managers can prevent rumors of layoffs by being frank and open about potential downsizing.
Gossip in the workplace is disastrous. Gossip destroys trust and assails credibility yet it pervades business today.
This is a factGossip pollutes the corporate culture, creates unnecessary tension and most often creates outright conflict. As a leader you would not tolerate gossip targeted at you, then the same rules apply.
In the same way, insulting your colleagues is a no-no. Unless, of course, you want to kill your culture.
It doesn’t matter what the situation is or what your reasons are — insulting your colleagues is perhaps the fastest way to turn your company culture into ruins. It’s much better to spread the love and compliment colleagues when they do a good job.
Meetings are truly the best time to launch insults at fellow workers. It gives you a platform AND an audience.
Don’t hold back, either. If public execution isn’t your style, there are more clandestine approaches available. For example, gossiping about your colleagues behind their backs. Don’t worry, it’ll eventually get back to them.
📚 Additional reading
They Avoid Conflict
In all areas of life, conflict happens. In any organization, people are going to disagree on the best way to do things. Tough decisions must be made, which inevitably will make some people happy and others unhappy.
Trust can’t flourish in a workplace where leaders perpetually avoid conflict. It’s important to come to the understanding that conflict isn’t bad.
This is a factIf you’re a leader who avoids conflict at all costs, transparent communication can’t occur, productivity falters as decisions take forever to be made, high performers get fed up and leave and in general, you’re seen as weak or wishy-washy.
Avoiding conflict usually involves turning a blind eye to bad behavior or poor performance. If you partake in avoiding conflict, you’re also avoiding being a leader.
An inevitable part of being a leader means getting your hands dirty to tackle tough issues. It’s not a fun part of the role, but if handled with tact and grace, it will make the workplace better for everyone.
Avoiding conflict is the perfect way to empower a bully. If their behavior goes unchecked, it won’t change.
This is a factEmpowering a bully can also be about putting someone in charge to do the dirty work. If the leader would rather avoid conflict, they may perceive a bully as the best person to take care of difficult situations for them, perhaps even allowing the leader to maintain the reputation as a great guy.
Consider the impact of what you’re doing. There is a good chance that constant conflict avoidance is damaging your reputation.
You may be making other people wait while you delay a decision. Maybe you are stopping your best team members from getting ahead. You might even be setting yourself up for further conflict down the road by avoiding today’s conflict!
📚 Additional reading
If you want to ruin your culture and drain confidence from a team, the best thing you can do is hide from your responsibilities and disappear in a crisis. To contribute toward a brilliant culture, you should instead support your team and do what it takes to get your business back on track.
They're Control Freak
One of the best ways to make staff feel like you don’t trust them is to micromanage everything they do. A great leader is one who supports his or her team and who is willing to give up some control by letting employees take matters into their own hands.
Part of the beauty of a supportive workplace culture is that people are allowed to think, experiment and fail.
Management styles may differ from person to person within an organization but one thing that workplace studies show consistently is that employees do not like to be watched every single step of the way.
A great way to crush the spirit of a team is to implement a strict do as I say, not as I do environment, where the boss is never wrong.
The top-down, submit to every request, drone mentality can quickly damper even the most enthusiastic employee spirit. This type of setting can construct an underlying resentment in teams and create a toxic environment that can lead to non-production and unnecessary employee attrition.
Micromanaging isn’t leading, it’s controlling. It isn’t mentoring, it’s anti-learning. It isn’t supportive, it’s undermining.
This is a factEvery person on the team needs to be granted the time, space, and authority to do their job. A micromanaging leader wrecks the team on a daily basis. It’s a horrible, terrible, un-empowering, insecure, fearful way to lead. Don’t do it. Please, please, please, don’t do it.
It can be tempting for managers to remain vigilant over every activity their team members are performing, especially if the employees are working remotely.
However, doing so will only breed feelings of resentment and distrust in employees. Managers should instead aim to be team leaders who empower their employees to work independently and reach goals within a reasonable time frame.
📚 Additional reading
Employees will take initiative only if they feel empowered to do so. Micromanagement, conversely, leads to a fearful, disengaged workforce. Managers need to take a step back and give their teams some autonomy if they wish to maximize productivity.
They Don't Follow Through On Promises
If you promise an employee you’ll provide the resources she needs to get a project done, and then you leave her in the lurch, why should she work hard for you in the future? She won’t.
Employees trust us when we act predictably and consistently with what we promise.
This is a factThink carefully before you make a promise, because it’s crucial that you fulfill it, or at least communicate why you are no longer able to do so. Trust builds slowly over time, and it takes only one broken promise to lose all the ground you’ve gained.
Trust plays a vital role in successful company cultures, and should be at the core of relationship building efforts.
But it only really works when the whole management structure walks the honesty walk. Whether it is a little lie, like a pepperoni-laced “I don’t know who ate your lunch,” or a more systemic “no layoffs this spring” from a manager who knows the opposite to be true, dishonesty bubbles away and erodes trust.
The thing about keeping people engaged and loyal to your organization is they need to have faith in the direction it is going in.
This is a factIf a promise is made but not delivered, this will most likely cause frustration and erode trust. After that, even if you have the best intentions or plans for your people, they won’t have confidence that they can trust you to follow through.
Commitment drift is dangerous because it erodes trust and undermines relationship.
Under the pressure of a quota, deadline, or amid the turmoil of constant change, some leaders experience commitment drift, in which critical promises are forgotten or broken.
📚 Additional reading
They Buck The Spirit Of Teamwork
Communication is a large part of the creative process and a successful culture. Working in silos or in a vacuum can be a huge threat to productivity.
Being an individual is often encouraged, but working strictly as an individual hinders good ideas and a sense of teamwork.
Closing individuals or departments out of an inclusive process can lead to resentment and an every person for themselves culture. Communicating regularly and keeping teams in an all-encompassing environment makes for the best creative results.
Open communication is key to any healthy workplace culture.
This is a factIt helps the leadership team stay in touch with what’s going on in every team and make sure they all have the tools they need to do their best work. Falling to have an avenue in place for people to provide input not only inhibits this but also sends a message that their voice isn’t valued.
Everything moves quickly in the digital world. It isn’t an excuse to avoid building a team spirit.
This is a factWhen you fail to stop for a meaningful connection, you miss the opportunity to foster relationships and learn from experiences. Celebrate success and learning as a team, regardless of being in a digital world.
A company’s leadership may often mistake cooperation with collaboration — a big no-no.
Whereas cooperation involves individuals working independently alongside each other, collaboration involves collective work. Cooperation leads to individual achievement, which can breed competition and contempt.
They Reward Just The Outcomes
Genuine excellence loses its value when you rattle off an undiluted stream vague praise. Praising someone on their fabulous commitment to hard work gives them no meaningful information about their contribution.
The right kind of praise at the right time fosters a culture of excellence.
Trite praise won’t do you or anyone else any favors. Professionals don’t need a pat on the back for doing their jobs. Approaching your work with an all-in-all-the-time mentality is the mantra that must be applied to all areas of work.
Teams may not always expect to be rewarded for good work, but it’s always nice to be recognized.
This is a factIf attention or recognition only comes in the form of punishment from poor behavior or performance, enthusiasm can wane quickly. It doesn’t take much less time to recognize a good well done.
It is paramount to define compensation, accolades and recognition based upon long-term business and leadership strategies.
If an employee excels in an organization by operating outside of what the company culture prescribes, then that behavior is what will truly define the company culture.
Giving recognition to someone for doing an excellent job is a cornerstone of employee engagement. Now, don’t ruin it.
Don’t give someone a plaque and tell them they can’t take it home or make them pay for a copy. If an individual or small team worked to do something amazing, don’t ignore their achievements in favor of recognizing the entire team.
They Foster Hypocrisy
Healthy companies do not blame people but rather blame the processes and when something is broken, the leaders take extreme ownership. Nothing can demotivate a well-intended team of people faster than allowing small incidences like this to go unchecked.
In companies that are inspired, the teammates are on guard for the little hypocrisies that can create big resentments even when they are done unintentionally.
This is a factCreating a culture where staff can call open challenge decisions that seem hypocritical, strengthens the relationship between everyone. Nothing builds trust faster than a leader who admits “You’re right. We did say that and now it does appear we are doing the opposite.”
Whatever a manager tolerates will ultimately determine the company culture.
Confronting bad behavior may be the most difficult aspect of leading because it involves having hard, honest conversations. But those difficult conversations are necessary because there is much more at stake than being uncomfortable.
Values must be the foundation of why a company exists, not just words on a web page.
This is a factIf you subscribe to mediocrity, you will build a mediocre team that achieves mediocre results. Tough decisions are effortless when you are in alignment with the business values. Dodging those tough decisions will cost you the trust and respect of your people.
Where the only managerial contact happens after things have gone wrong, enthusiasm for taking on new challenges is bound to be restricted.
The manager who fails to return message after message asking for guidance and shows up after things have gone wrong offering only criticism of the choices made along the way.
📚 Additional reading
Many organizations have copied from other organizations values to satisfy desired perceptions. They become an ornament for the company instead of the framework for how leaders engage and interact to drive results for the business.
Of course, leaders are only human and none of us are perfect. You almost certainly are going to recognize some of these mistakes in yourself, and that’s okay.
But, in all seriousness, I hope that you’re NOT interested in ever destroying your workplace culture.
Remember, the example you set as a leader is critical not just for current employees, but for attracting new talent as well. With the increasing transparency of toxic workplaces, it isn’t as easy as it once was to let your corporate culture slide.
Don’t take the easy way out by saying nothing. Speak up, act, and promote the culture you want your organization to develop and maintain.
This is a factIt only takes one of these behaviors to begin a blazing trail of destruction through your company. You have the power to change and it is never too late to become a leader who will lead your company to the top.
If you sincerely want to improve the culture of your organization, start with yourself.
Take a hard look at your behavior, and, if you lead a team of leaders, check their behavior too. Model the way to earn employees’ trust and confidence as a first step to building.
Creating an inspiring culture does not happen overnight. It is a focused, daily, effort that requires continuous gardening to help grow a culture that will thrive.
So, are you uncomfortable now? Are you self-reflecting as a leader? Good. Let the truth guide your next steps. Don’t just sit there. Make your culture real. Create real cultural integrity and let’s share your thoughts and experience in the comments!