Changing a toxic workplace culture can be an almost impossible task to take on, but it’s not completely hopeless. In the ideal world, you’d be able to fix your workplace culture by improving leadership, changing policies and establishing strong communication between employees and management, but in some rare cases that would work. Unfortunately, most of the time fixing the culture would mean forcing out senior leaders and key team members who have been there a long time and have created the toxic culture that defines your organization.
A toxic workplace culture can be defined as one in which employees feel unsafe, unsupported, unhappy, or unproductive. Although each individual may have different perceptions of what constitutes a toxic workplace environment, it is typically best described as an environment in which there is a noticeable lack of trust and high levels of conflict among employees.
Just because your culture is toxic doesn’t mean it’s totally negative. In some instances, a toxic culture can simply mean that employees are disengaged or unmotivated. If you want to fix that, there are steps you can take to improve engagement and motivation (see How To Improve Employee Engagement). But, if your organization has created a hostile environment for and group of people you probably have a toxic culture.
When a workplace culture is toxic it spreads and infects each person in that organization. The longer it goes untreated, or unaddressed, the more damage is done to people’s lives and careers. In short, changing an organizational culture requires significant effort by company leadership. It can also take years for significant change to happen—even when every single employee in an organization supports change efforts.
If you’re in charge of changing your organization’s culture, it can be difficult to know when you should give up and move on. You could assume that, if there are enough warning signs, you won’t have to worry about any major or unforeseen problems cropping up. In truth, many companies with toxic cultures continue suffering from problems even after they make an effort to fix things.
Do your employees seem stuck? Check out how to get them Unstuck here.