When it comes to culture, the leader sets the tone. So often leaders are focused on the everyday issues like increasing sales, maximizing margins, reducing expenses, and improving the process that they forget about what is going on outside their office door. Far too often the culture can go awry…. Conflicts, cliques, backdoor politics, backstabbing, and gossiping become the norm. Once these negative behaviours permeate into a culture, it becomes a ‘fear-based’ organization where lack of trust, respect, and low morale is the norm. An environment where everyone is out for themselves. The concept of team and collaboration is lost. A toxic culture spreads like poison throughout an organization and directly affects your bottom line!
PRODUCTIVITY: If employees are watching their backs, worried about what others are saying or doing, or are targets of negativity, they aren’t focused on their work. They spend a lot of their day worrying, not working. If the negative ‘whispered’ talk around the water cooler and gossip behind closed doors become the priority for others, you will see work levels fall by the wayside. Lost productivity is lost profit for the organization!
COMMUNICATION: If people are unhappy in the workplace, cliques form, politics, fear, and contention build, your inter-office communication shuts down. If communication shuts down, errors will begin to occur, departments will isolate themselves, and finger pointing and division occur seemingly overnight. The ability of your teams to work cohesively is lost. People become afraid to speak up and engagement is lost.
RETENTION LEVELS: Workplaces with low morale will start to see employee turnover rates soar. Some studies (SHRM) show that every time a business replaces a salaried employee, the cost is 6 to 9 months salary in terms of recruitment and training costs. On a salary of $60,000 a year, that is $30,000 to $45,000! And that doesn’t even begin to cover the lost ‘knowledge’ that walks out the door. The news gets even worse, as it is usually the ‘good’ staff that leave. The toxic ones feel the power and control over the domain, and they will continue to stay.
WORD TRAVELS: Complaints about a toxic culture never stay within the organization. Word will quickly spread throughout your industry. That means, not only will you be losing good talent, your ability to attract and hire bright new individuals who can bring ‘great stuff’ to your organization will also be lost.
So Leaders, do not ignore what is going on outside your office walls.
1. ACKNOWLEDGE that the problem exists. This is probably the biggest and hardest step to take.
2. DEDICATE TIME TO DISCUSS in meetings. Yes bring up the ‘elephant’ and work as a group to come with creative ways ‘as a team’ to change behaviour.
3. BE REGULAR & CONSISTENT in these discussions, so people understand that a change in behaviour is expected and old behaviours will no longer be tolerated.
4. TAKE ACTION. Call the person in when you see and hear of specific behaviour and have the conversation about how the company is changing, what the ‘new’ company is going to look like, and that the conduct of ‘old’ will no longer be tolerated. Don’t get into the person’s specific actions, instead keep it broad and general. Calling them in and having a ‘visionary’ conversation is likely enough for them to understand why they are standing in your office. And finally,
5. LOOK AT YOUR OWN BEHAVIOUR and make sure that your actions are not setting the tone for a toxic culture! Are you speaking ill of others? Is title and rank all important to you? Are you creating fear in the workplace through your leadership style? Are you friendly and converse with EVERYONE in the organization, not just the ‘popular clique’ or the ‘management team’?
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Remember, THE LEADER DICTATES HOW THE TEAM PLAYS THE GAME! Visualize what it would be like to lead a team where the staff are happy, loyal and committed, where interoffice communication thrives, and where productivity excels beyond expectation. No leader wants to spend their time dealing with interpersonal issues and culture, however, a strong leader, who prioritizes the concept of ‘team’ is willing to take action because they realize the long-term benefits become immeasurable!
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