Earlier this month, I shared some tips on how to repair your toxic workplace culture, in light of TINYpulse’s findings that only 36 percent of workers felt their organizations’ cultures were “strong.”
Today, I want to share three more strategies that can help you turn things around if you find that your workplace culture isn’t as strong as it should be.
1. Neutralize the Blame Culture
An “culture of blame” can be both a symptom and a cause of a toxic culture. A culture of blame is one in which staff members are punished whenever they fail. The result is that employees become crippled by their fear of failure. They are afraid to speak up, take risks, or show initiative. This leads to an environment where people feel unsafe and disengaged.
Studies show that a blame culture is highly correlated with variables that predict subpar long-term performance, poor client satisfaction, and low employee engagement. In fact, in the study I linked to, the researched could not find any stakeholders who benefited from blame cultures.
It’s clear that eliminating blame is one of the most important ways to revitalize a toxic culture, and such an elimination needs to start at the top. The CEO and senior leaders should cultivate a culture of responsibility, not blame. Senior leaders should lead the way by owning up to their own mistakes while at the same time talking about lessons learned from those mistakes. Failure should be viewed as learning experience, not an opportunity to denigrate others.
Recognition programs should not only focus on winners, but also on plucky losers, those who tried to make a difference but fell short. Show that your business strives for success but also values effort, initiative, and risk-taking. Showing employees that you can accept and nurture them after they have made mistakes is a great way to build trust, commitment, and engagement.
2. Accept That You May Encounter Resistance as You Strive to Revitalize the Culture
Changing your culture from toxic to supportive is, well, a change, and change always encounters some resistance. Even if you’re trying to improve the culture, people may still be worried about what the new culture will look like.
The reality is that resistance is a natural part of any change process. If not handled correctly, this resistance can put the brakes on your attempts at cleaning up the company culture.
Once you have decided it is time to revitalize your culture, you need to carefully and skillfully deploy the proper change-management practices. You can’t simply force the revitalization effort on everyone — you need to ease them into it.
3. Hire and Fire in Alignment With Your Target Culture
All the tips and tactics that I have presented thus far will help you revitalize a toxic workplace culture, but even with your best efforts there will always be detractors who may slow the process.
Depending on how much resistance you meet, you may not be able to revitalize your culture entirely from within. This is something that Jeff Immelt realized when he began reinventing General Electric a little over a decade ago. To provide the company with an irresistible injection of innovation, Immelt hired 1,700 new sales and marketing faces within a few short years.
Another way to revitalize your toxic culture — and perhaps one of the key ways to do so — is to identify your target culture, ingrain this culture into your core values and key performance indicators, and ensure that staff are hired and fired in accordance with how well they fit into your new, healthy culture. Hire staff who will help to create a new, healthy culture, and enable those disengaged staff who refuse or are unable to adapt to the new culture to leave when the opportunity arises.