April 21, 2022

Seven Ways to Kill Company Culture

Have you ever worked for a business with a brilliant workplace culture? If you have (or you do right now), then you know the feeling.

People have got each other’s backs and there’s a clear idea of what you’re working towards. You’ve probably got some decent leaders and your team regularly stops to celebrate success. When culture is good, work doesn’t feel like a chore – it’s somewhere worth spending your time. But just like the wind, workplace culture can change direction quickly. Every leader needs to be aware of these ‘culture killers’ — all of which can erode the good vibes in any type of workplace.

Culture killers

Lack of vision

When people don’t have a clear idea of what they’re working towards, they’re unlikely to stay motivated. The vision and values for your business and team should be at the forefront of every staff member’s mind. Just remember, these should be aspirational and inspiring (read: not dictatorial!).

Poor leadership

In our view, there’s a clear distinction between ‘managing’ a team and ‘leading’ one. Managing is tactical, results-orientated and about getting the most from Meanwhile, leadership is aspirational, innovation-focused, and about creating the right environment for people. Management is important for team leaders to keep work moving day-to-day, but if they lack leadership skills, culture will suffer.

Micro-managing

The problem with micro-managing isn’t just that it’s bloody annoying. It’s that it conveys a lack of trust between leaders and staff. A positive workplace culture stems from staff being empowered to do their jobs, while having access to support when they need it. When people feel like they’re constantly being watched or they have little agency in their role, they’ll likely underperform (or leave).

Communication breakdown

Communication breakdowns have split-up much loved pop-bands, ruined countless marriages and even helped start world wars. So, it should come as no surprise that poor communication wreaks havoc in the workplace. Communication is a big topic – but general themes include transparency, honesty, frequency and an open dialogue between teams and leadership. Leading Business Strategist, Kerwin Rae finishes every team huddle by asking, “What’s left unsaid here?” This simple phrase gives everyone the chance to say anything that’s on their mind or air out any issues before they escalate. Clever.

Treating adults like children

Businesses that encourage clock-watching or that have rigid policies around remote working and other types of flexible work arrangements, are setting themselves up for a toxic workplace culture. Every staff member deserves to be trusted and treated like an adult by default. Of course, there will be cases where some people abuse this trust, but these cases should be managed individually, and not applied automatically to all.

Us Vs Them

The (wonderful) cliché ‘one team, one dream’ comes to mind here. Isn’t it funny how quickly people turn on each other within the same organisation, simply when staff are arranged into different teams? This ‘us versus them’ mentality doesn’t make sense, erodes staff morale and is unproductive. Roadblocks occurring between different staff or different departments should be removed quickly as they come up.

Bad hires

Bad hires doesn’t necessarily mean ‘bad people’ (though they do exist) – what we’re referring to here are people that are the wrong cultural fit for your team/business. For example, if you’ve built a team of collaborators and then hire someone who actively despises teamwork, you’ll have a problem. Or, if your team value is about every voice being heard, but you hire an impatient and domineering leader, again, problem. Socialising your shortlisted candidates with the team they’ll be joining gives both parties the chance to see if they can work together.

The good news about culture killers is that they can all be reversed. But remember, the longer you leave problematic behaviour unchecked, the harder it will be to undo damage. When you make checking the pulse of your business’s culture a regular habit, you’ll have more success at keeping those nasty culture killers at bay.