5 Toxic Elements That May Be Destroying Your Company Culture

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A carefully developed company culture can do wonders when it comes to improving employee productivity and performance. It can also impact employees’ day-to-day happiness while significantly reducing levels of absenteeism.

On the flip side, neglecting your culture can allow toxic elements to fester. This, in turn, can have a serious negative impact on your employees, your company’s reputation, and your recruitment efforts.

According to research from Deloitte, only 12 percent of employees think their employers are “excellent” when it comes to driving the right company culture. Don’t allow this to be the case for your organization. Don’t wait for your culture to turn sour. Be proactive and ensure your business is doing all it can to look after its workforce and promote an atmosphere of trust and encouragement.

Many factors contribute to shaping a company’s culture, but here, we will address five toxic elements that commonly damage developing company cultures, scaring away top talent and driving up turnover in the process. We’ll also discuss how you can adapt the various stages of your performance management cycle to promote a healthier company culture.

1. Bullying and Incivility

Bullying isn’t just a schoolyard concern. Unfortunately, it can follow us into adulthood and into the office. Bullying can impact employee well-being, and it comes in many forms, including unfair criticism, stealing credit for work, sarcastic or rude comments, and outright threats.

Bullying can also come in a more subtle form that, though harder to detect, can be just as detrimental as more overt forms: incivility. Incivility often manifests as condescension, refusal to give credit for collaborative work, and ignoring employees’ input.

Many companies turn a blind eye to bullying and incivility, but given that 75 percent of employees have encountered bullying in their careers, this is clearly no matter to be taken lightly. If ignored, bullying behaviors will be seen as acceptable. They’ll become normalized and ingrained in the company culture. Take a hard line on this issue. Let your employees know they can come to you to discuss inappropriate conduct, and be sure to take action when necessary.

2. Inflexibility and Reluctance to Change

Modern businesses need to be forward-thinking and adaptable. They need to remain up to date with performance management trends to keep their employees engaged, and they need to tweak their workplace processes when the times require it. Tradition is never a good enough reason to keep doing things the way they’ve always been done.

floorEmployees should be encouraged to give feedback on their roles and their work. What processes are difficult to work with in the office? How can you adapt things to help improve employee performance? Could you possibly introduce flexible work arrangements or update technology to streamline business? Being willing to change will show your employees that you prioritize innovation and efficiency, while a reluctance to adapt will show existing and prospective employees that your business isn’t likely to thrive in the future.

3. A Lack of Communication

Communication is important to the success of any business. For this reason, businesses large and small around the world are trading in their annual appraisals for more continuous, regular feedback discussions.

Regular communication encourages employees to be more comfortable and confident in speaking their minds and sharing their concerns. Managers should make time for regular check-ins as often as possible. Monthly check-ins prove to employees you are invested in their development and eager to help them succeed. During these performance discussions, cover progress in terms of objectives, concerns, ambitions, and training. Improved communication will improve your company culture and boost employee morale in the long term.

4. A Lack of Transparency

Frequency of communication isn’t enough in itself. Communication should also be authentic and transparent. If managers aren’t open with their employees, employees won’t be eager to engage in meaningful dialogue. Top-down communication is just as vital as bottom-up communication.

Managers should be discussing company values, goals, directions, and major organizational changes with their teams. There is no reason to keep important information from your employees, particularly when that information concerns them. You are all part of a well-functioning team, and improved transparency will solidify this feeling of togetherness.

5. Employee Performance Ratings

Performance ratings are still common, although their popularity has seriously dwindled in recent times. That’s partly because ratings can often be detrimental to employee motivation and performance. Rather than incentivizing employees to improve, a numbers-based method of appraisal can be extremely demoralizing. On top of this, and despite what you might assume, objective performance ratings are inherently subjective for a number of reasons. A focus on employee performance ratings can also create an unhealthy amount of competition in your workforce, which discourages knowledge-sharing and collaboration.

For reasons such as these, companies like Adobe and Juniper have abandoned their ratings and stack ranking systems. That being said, it’s important to have an alternative in place before abandoning rankings entirely. An ongoing, developmental approach to performance management that relies on regular communication and frequent reappraisal of SMART objectives would be a good replacement.

It is our responsibility as HR executives and managers to nurture and guide our company cultures while keeping toxic elements at bay. Developing a culture to be proud of might take time, but the benefits are worth the effort.

Stuart Hearn is CEO of Clear Review.

Read more in Organizational Culture

Stuart Hearn has 20 years of experience in the HR sector. He cofounded plusHR, a leading UK HR consultancy, and previously worked as international HR director for Sony Music Publishing. Stuart is currently CEO of Clear Review, an innovative performance management software system.