12 Things That Destroy Company Culture

Posted on: July 13, 2021

Company culture may be too complex to define succinctly as it centres on a variety of elements. But broadly speaking, company culture refers to the vision, mission, values, goals, ethics, perceptions, attitudes, expectations, habits and behaviours of an organisation and its employees.

Your corporate culture strongly shapes the interactions, decisions, performance and outcomes of your organisation. For this reason, a healthy company culture is crucial to a successful, thriving organisation.

Here are 12 characteristics and behaviours that can completely destroy an organisation’s culture:

1. Not knowing what your culture actually is

Unfortunately, a large number of businesses and organisations struggle with determining what their company culture actually is. This can be due to negligence and inconsistencies stemming from leadership which then trickle down throughout the company and create an environment of confusion and misalignment.

A good way for leaders to establish and communicate corporate culture is through documenting and sharing a culture document that encompasses the vision, mission, values and expectations of the organisation, and making it accessible to all staff.

Most importantly, leaders, executives and managers need to be weary of not setting a bad example in their workplaces as perceived hypocrisy of leadership never sits well with employees and is detrimental to an organisation’s success.

2. Absent or unresponsive management/key staff during times of turmoil

Nothing spells vexation quite like missing or unresponsive management during times of crisis and turmoil. Leadership advice and teamwork are paramount in such times, so when people in key roles and posts disappear for extended periods of time, it can cause the entire organisation to sink.

Clearly, there will be times when certain team members are not present or available, but it’s vital that adequate support, correspondence and guidance are still provided, whether it be in the form of a fill-in or substitute employee, a timely and clarifying email response, a phone call, or a video check-in, to ensure that other team members are still able to fulfil their tasks and the organisation stays on track.

3. Taking credit for others’ work

Human motivation is driven by recognition, approval and a sense of belonging. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs identifies these as psychological (esteem) needs.

Understandably, a workplace where staff attempt to take credit for their co-workers’ accomplishments or ideas is toxic and detrimental to a company’s culture, leaving affected staff members feeling undermined, unappreciated and unrecognised.

4. Working in silos

The harsh reality is that a great number of workplaces develop environments that allow for organisational silos to expand and ultimately compromise overarching company goals, inhibit effective communication and prevent conducive company culture from developing. The impact of silos in the workplace is perhaps best depicted by Pratik Dholakiya, who states:

“Much as we believe that we are most productive in our little silos, the fundamental fact remains that humans are social animals. By denying the opportunity to collaborate and cross-pollinate ideas, businesses contribute to their own speedy demise.”

5. Communication breakdown

This follows on perfectly from our previous point. The cost of communication deficiencies between staff, departments and management in any given business cannot be overstated. It has tremendous consequences on a company’s culture and bottom line.

In ‘The Cost of Poor Communications‘, David Grossman reports that a survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees each cited an average cost (per company) of $62.4 million per year as a result of inadequate communication.

6. Demanding too much from employees and micromanaging them

Employers and managers oftentimes seem to forget that employees are human beings with limits, and at most times, enough on their plate. A heavy workload coupled with a leadership style focused on micromanagement will ultimately take a terrible mental and physical toll on staff members who are likely to feel excessively exploited, patronised, untrusted, suffocated, stressed and burnt out.

7. No recognition of great work and effort

As discussed in point 3 of this blog, recognition is a driving force of motivation for humans. When leaders and managers fail to recognise (and reward) the amazing work, effort and diligence put in by their staff, they can expect rising dissatisfaction among employees and skyrocketing turnover rates to follow.

8. Inflexibility and a reluctance to change

Needless to say, a company that lacks flexibility and is averse to change is one whose chances of success are slim. Employees and potential hires tend to avoid such organisations that neglect innovation and efficiency as they are seen as not being sustainable in the long run.

Companies need to be forward-thinking, flexible and adaptable if they are to attract and keep their employees happy and engaged. This could mean revising their workplace processes when needed, setting up flexible work arrangements and focusing on innovations that streamline business and improve efficiency.

9. Lack of transparency and employee input

Does your organisation have a top-down approach, a clear separation between you as the business owner and your staff, and a lack of input from anyone who is not on the senior management team? The success of your business relies on a leadership style that furthers effective decision-making, teamwork, and a healthy workplace culture where open communication and input are encouraged.

Companies that keep important information from their staff, that lack transparency in their hierarchical structure and that allow for little employee input damage their company’s culture, resulting in disengaged staff and poorly-functioning teams.

10. Poor work-life balance

The consequences of a poor work-life balance among employees and management are toxic to the development of a healthy, vibrant company culture. Increased levels of stress, fatigue, lost sleep and burn out as a result of excessive hours spent at the office with little to no breaks are a deadly combination that destroy the productivity and culture of an entire organisation.

11. Office gossip

Unfortunately, gossip is far too rampant in many organisations today. When office gossip is permitted to spread unchecked and without consequence, it can completely poison a company’s culture and prevent any form of harmony and amity in the workplace. Managers should establish clear rules and policies to ensure that staff understand that harmful office gossip will not be tolerated by the organisation.

12. Unfriendly employee competition

Competition between colleagues can be quite an inevitable part of most people’s careers. However, a hyper-competitive workplace where employees feel pitted against each other for recognition, remuneration or promotion is doomed to fail. Unfriendly competition at work plagues any vision for a unified team, a conducive culture and a successful business.

Creating a healthy company culture is just one aspect of building a successful business.

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