A reporter doing a piece on toxic work cultures recently asked me for three signs that things are going downhill. I thought my audience could use this information as well. Keep in mind that I view work and organization cultures through the LGBTQ lens.
- One of the beginning signs of cultural toxicity is that trust is starting to unravel. Usually, this happens when the staff realizes that management is deliberately withholding information. It’s hard to trust your co-workers when it’s obvious there’s another agenda at play.
- Another sign of toxicity is when there is a habit of doing performance reviews that only flow up. This means that managers don’t have a chance to hear honest feedback from their staff and use the opportunity to become better leaders. It also communicates that staff input is not valued in a meaningful way.
- A final sign of toxicity is when marginalized populations either don’t come to work there in the first place or when they start to leave. People from these areas of life intuitively sense an environment of shame and tension and are faster to act on these cues. If the only employees left, or to begin with, are white, middle-class and predominantly male, that’s a big clue to look harder at the culture before committing to work there or continuing to work there.
How do we fix toxic work cultures? The exact same way we fix toxic family cultures, although in my experience it’s much easier for organizations to change than families. I teach concepts of Emotional Intelligence to allow members of the organization to develop acute observational skills, a greater ability to pivot, and true, lasting change. This results in improved lives, improved company morale, and an improved bottom line.