Six Signs You Have a Toxic Company Culture

Culture is the holy grail of organisational success. Getting it right will not only drive the right behaviour but it will ensure that everyone is engaged in something more important than the work itself.

On the flipside, getting it wrong can have a huge impact on the wellbeing and performance of your employees, and ultimately your success as a business. 

In this article we’re sharing 6 of the red flags you should look out for when it comes to company culture. 

If your company is exhibiting these behaviours perhaps it’s time to think about how you can start shifting your employees’ mindset and embed your company values throughout the organisation.

1. Internal competition is the norm

There is nothing healthy about “internal competition,” which generally exhibits itself as a “desire to win” mentality. While this is okay if it is targeted at external competitors, if it is driven towards internal stakeholders it can drive a set of behaviours which can be incredibly destructive to the overall culture of an organisation. Competitive thinking directs energy, time and resources towards internal challenges rather than external threats. 

2. Leaders not role modelling the culture

Your team aren’t mind readers, so without clear cultural expectations and guidance from the top down the culture will ultimately manifest itself. Chances are if it’s not crafted with intention, the culture that manifests, won’t necessarily be the one that your company wants, or needs. It’s therefore the responsibility of senior leaders, in particular CEOs, to clearly communicate expectations around culture to the wider team and act as cultural role models, all while holding others accountable to do the same.

3. Unmotivated and poor performing employees

If your employees are unmotivated or consistently underperforming this is a red-flag that something is off culturally. In some cases, this could be due to the fact that you are not recruiting the right people in the first place, so think about what measures you have in place to ensure people are culturally aligned.

However, in most cases poor performance is often a result of poor leadership and management. Most people go into work wanting to contribute, it’s rare that people intentionally do a bad job. 

4. A lack of trust and empathy.

Trust, empathy and care form the foundations of a healthy workplace culture. If an employee feels cared for and respected by their leaders and fellow colleagues they are far more likely to perform, than if they feel as if they are just another number to the company. 

5. Failure is frowned upon. 

Failure is inevitable, and plays a huge role in progress both from a personal perspective and company perspective. 

If your team don’t feel comfortable failing they are less likely to think outside of the box or do try new things – both elements that are essential if you want your organisation to innovate and grow. 

6. There’s a maintain mentality as opposed to a growth mentality

High-performance culture is underpinned by employees having a growth mindset. Leaders should regularly ask themselves the question; “How many of my team are genuinely coming into work today thinking about how they can grow the business, or how many of them are coming in thinking that they will do what they did yesterday, which is to maintain the business?” 

Most organisations who first ask this question are faced with the reality that the majority of their employees are operating in a mindset of “maintain”, whereas growth is about innovation. It is about challenging the status quo, looking for new ways to do things and aiming to achieve outstanding business growth, regardless of the trading environment in which you are operating.

For more insights on how to build an aligned company culture check out our blog: How to Handle a CEO Who’s Creating a Toxic Culture


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