Diagnosing a Toxic Work Culture

by Dr. Rick Goodman on November 20, 2017

Few things are more precious than a great workplace culture.

Studies show that many employees—especially millennials—will actually settle for lower pay if it means working within a better, more positive culture. And as such, it’s no surprise to see so many companies boasting of their cultural excellence.

But let’s be real: Not every workplace culture is ideal. A few are actually downright toxic—and it’s important to know and be aware of that.

Before taking a new position, make sure you’re not stepping into an unpleasant cultural situation; and if you already work in a toxic work environment, do your part to change it.

It all starts with a simple diagnosis. Here are some of my recommendations.

It’s Not About Surface-Level Stuff

As a leadership coach, I’ve been in businesses that have ping-pong tables, massage chairs, smoothie makers, and all kinds of other goodies. All of that’s fine, and in fact it can be meaningful—but ultimately, it doesn’t say much about the underlying culture.

Those things are all superficial trappings. If it was that easy to make your culture great, every business would have great culture. Be ready to look past these surface features.

Your Senses Can Guide You

Instead of focusing on the outward trappings, pause to consider the workplace more deeply. Start by surveying the layout. Does it feel open and collaborative—or is everyone’s workspace sequestered and secretive? That tells you a lot about the workplace culture right there.

Also, keep your ears open. How do people sound? Do the employees strike you as enthusiastic? As positive? Or as jittery and nervous? This, too, can be pretty revealing.

What About Recruiting?

Another tip: Be mindful of the recruiting process. How is it paced? A good company culture will manifest itself in plenty of due diligence, ensuring that the person hired is the right fit.

Meanwhile, if there is no due diligence—and if the entire process feels rushed and reckless—that’s a pretty big red flag.

Of course, these are just a few ways you can sort through a company culture and try to make sense of it. Even more important is your willingness to ask legitimately tough questions about the company’s values, and how those values are carried out in the day-to-day. Most important of all: Trusting your own gut, and steering clear of any culture that just feels off.

Dr. Rick Goodman CSP is a thought leader in the world of leadership and one of the most sought-after conference keynote speakers on leadership, engagement, and business growth, both internationally and domestically. He is famous for helping organizations, corporations, and individuals with systems, strategies, and solutions that encourage engagement, resulting in increased profits and productivity without having the challenges of micromanaging the process. Some of these clients include Heineken, AT&T, Boeing, Cavium Networks, IBM, Hewlett Packard, and Franklin Templeton Investments.

To contact Dr. Rick, visit him online at www.rickgoodman.com or call 888-267-6098.

Dr. Rick GoodmanDiagnosing a Toxic Work Culture

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