Identifying Company Culture Killers

Crimes against company culture.

I refer to the offense as involuntary manslaughter when organizations take actions that threaten their own culture. There is no malice aforethought when it comes to corporate culture; I merely don’t think that many people get out of bed in the morning and go to work with the specific aim to hurt their firm.

However, there are many supervisors, managers, HR specialists, and staff members that are careless, if not downright irresponsible, with their organization’s culture. We make decisions, act in ways that harm your corporate culture, sometimes permanently.

What then can destroy the corporate culture? Here are my top five life-threatening behaviors that can harm your company’s culture and your employees long-term.


You have a friendly, interesting website that promotes your wonderful organization. Your organization has a set of values that describe how you will cooperate, what matters to you, and how you will treat others. Maybe you add some leadership traits to this as well. Senior leaders speak movingly about the value of your staff while standing up. You talk about ethics, morals, beliefs, and ideals, but when it comes to your daily activities, you utterly disregard them.

Your staff are not naïve, and it is blatantly clear when your words and deeds don’t match up.

Secrets and spin.

The rumor mill is the only thing in the cosmos that has been shown to move faster than light. Rumors start when there are communication gaps. Your employees will worry, lose faith in you, and stop caring if you hold secrets, don’t disclose, don’t trust, or keep it close. They might easily abandon you for somewhere more transparent if you are not careful.

Then there are outright lies, as well as spin. giving the story a lovely face and making it seem as if everything is peaches and cream in the garden when it isn’t. They’ll be able to see right through it. Then they lose faith in you.

Just be honest with your staff. That’s how easy it is, in fact. despite the unfavorable news. People will then support you during both good and terrible times.

Badly managed change

You’ve witnessed it. You have probably experienced it. alteration without justification. Without communication, change. Just for the sake of change. It’s unpleasant, worrying, and occasionally overwhelming for your staff.

You must speak to one another frequently. Engage individuals, clarify, share, and narrate the tale. Take people with you or you run the risk of losing their engagement, goodwill, and trust.

The “take, take, take” company culture

The employment relationship is a two way thing.  At its most simple, it is a transaction; pay for work undertaken.  But it is so much more than that.  Both parties have needs, wants, requirements – only too many employers forget that.  They take from their employees, and then take some more, giving nothing in return.  We all know employees don’t just turn up for the pay.  The theory tells us so.  They want learning, opportunities, recognition, and feedback.

Ignore your employees’ needs at your peril.  Take their effort, their hard work, their time, their energy but give nothing in return, and you will find yourself gazing into a black hole of talent, when your employees go and find somewhere less exploitative instead.

Failure to challenge

We’ve all witnessed instances of poor job behavior. A lot of us have put up with it. But this can taint an organization over time. breaking the rules, being rude to others, using inappropriate language, etc. We’re all aware that it occurs. There are those in many organizations who simply get away with it, maybe because they are the top salesperson, star performer, or even the boss. Being the one to speak up, to object to the behavior, and to confront the perpetrator is not simple. But these people leave a very large and lingering shadow in their wake. And if they aren’t questioned, their actions start to become the standard.

The good news?  All of these deadly toxins aren’t necessarily terminal.  Company culture can be cured.  But the rehabilitation can be lengthy.   Over to you.

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Gemma Reucroft

Gemma is a UK based senior HR professional, with a particular interest in leadership development, employee relations and recruitment. Gemma is a Chartered member of the CIPD, is a qualified coach and holds a Masters degree in employment law and employee relations. Now a HR Director in the healthcare sector, Gemma is a HR blogger and tweeter, and you can find her on twitter as @HR_Gem.

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