Is Your Culture Toxic?

I always try to focus on the positives so in a lot of my posts I talk about the importance of creating a Development Culture within an organization. This always leads to questions about other types of culture, and often about what a Toxic Culture looks like. So today I will focus on that question, what is a Toxic Culture?

Here are three types of Toxic Cultures. Do any of them sound familiar? Is this your organizations culture? Are any of these you?

  1. Don’t Know they Don’t Know – In this culture people (leaders of the company) are very passive aggressive. They avoid conflict at all costs. They have trouble implementing because of this and so they don’t get results. But they don’t even know they aren’t getting results. The blame game is played in this type of culture.
  2. Know but Won’t Grow – A Development Culture is always focused on the growth of not only the organization, but on each employee. But this type of culture is the opposite. It is very political and analytical. They suffer from analysis paralysis. They often over manage. The think and rarely act. Remember the enemy of growing is KNOWING. This type of culture would disagree.
  3. All Blow and No Go – In this type of culture people suffer from a lot of fits and starts. There may be a lot of talent, but often the talent is moving in different directions. They don’t need to just get on the same page, they need to first get in the same book. Talent is great, but not if people do not fit together. You see examples of this in sports. A team will spend a lot of money on the top free agents and expectations will be high. But the results don’t improve and often decline. The talent didn’t fit.

Culture is one of my favorite things to talk about, but at times I often cringe when it comes up in certain situations because too often people talk about things that don’t make up a positive organizational culture in my opinion. Those types of Toxic Cultures that I mentioned? The leaders of companies like that may believe they have a positive culture.

They may say things like: “We value our people. We have all of these fun activities for them in our office. We give them rewards when they perform well. We bring in lunch, have free drinks, and we all work from a cube because everyone is the same.”

Those same leaders might also say: “All employees are not equal. We reward the best ones. We hire talent that has already been developed so we don’t need to invest in people. Our people are our most important asset.”

The above are things I often here from leaders who believe they have a positive culture. In reality, those leaders often are a part of Toxic Cultures. They Don’t Know they Don’t Know. Or they Know but Won’t Grow. And a lot of times they are All Blow and No Go.

When it comes down to it, the bottom line is what is most important to the leaders in a Toxic Culture. There may be a level of transparency, but never enough to truly call the leaders open and honest. People are looked at as assets. I am sure they do “value” those assets.

I believe people are your most valuable resources, not assets. You must invest in these resources and give them an opportunity to grow. Yes not all employees are equal, but shouldn’t they have the opportunity to be equal? Having great employees is nice, but what about the average ones? Don’t they have the potential to become great?

In a Toxic Culture the leaders often kid themselves. They often kid their employees. People leave because they feel mislead. They don’t feel valued or equal. And they were denied the opportunity to grow.

A Toxic Culture is TOXIC. Avoid it at all costs. Don’t get too close. You don’t want to catch it.

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