5 ways to test for a toxic culture,
and 5 ways to detox

Sometimes, the signs of a toxic culture are right out there in the open: leaders can be brazenly inappropriate, employees can be visibly clamoring for the exit doors, and company problems can become very publicly exposed, whether via social or traditional media. But in many cases, evidence of toxicity can be subtle and carefully hidden.  That may mean the toxins aren’t so strong, but it can also mean they have a chance to do more damage for a longer period of time.

CultureIQ’s platform and experts are capable of spotting some of the more subtle toxic behavior and practices that might be lurking in an organization. Here are five of them – and five ways your organization can perform a detox to clean them out of your culture:

Secretly toxic workplace1. No place for new ideas:

When a culture suffers from leadership and transparency issues, often employees don’t feel safe sharing their ideas to improve the company. There’s no regular time and place to brainstorm, and no specific encouragement to do so. Leaders might say “I have an open door,” but never reach out further to specifically ask employees for their ideas on improving the organization. Engagement and motivation suffer, and team members can feel helpless when problems arise.


Cleanse these feelings by setting up regular meetings specifically to brainstorm new ideas. And welcome everyone who’s interested–not just your most senior people. Make sure you give proper credit and rewards to employees whose ideas are implemented. Give your managers the ability to quickly form task forces dedicated to addressing urgent problems.


2. A mushy mission

– Employees depend on leaders to provide a clear direction for their company; otherwise they have no sense of whether their actions are working to achieve that mission. Without a clear purpose and common, easily-understood goals, business operations, communications, customer relations and financials will suffer.


Gather leaders to meditate on company’s purpose and mission, and from that exercise, formulate a clear and compelling guide that is transmitted throughout the company. Check periodically to see whether their workforce understands these goals, and how it is putting the goals into action. And make sure that if the goals change (as they do in these disruptive business times), there’s a plan in place to move the workforce in a new direction, quickly.


3. The echo chamber 

Speaking of disruptive times, an innovative team is crucial in problem solving and maximizing business performance while keeping pace with competitive change. Those teams are not nimble if everyone is thinking the same way. Workforce effectiveness is greater when there is diversity across the organization. If your organization doesn’t seek diversity, that can be a sign that it will have trouble spotting problems and solving them creatively.


Seek (and if you can’t find, hire) diverse thinkers and make sure they are all being heard: From the creative to the practical, from the most represented to the minority, and from the C-suite to the customer-facing. Listening to diverse points of view means you’ll have more choices when it comes to problem solving and a more holistic picture of what’s going on in your organization.


4. Work out of whack

– If the goals are clear, but employees can’t see how to work to achieve them, they will quickly feel disengaged and undervalued. Leaders have to take the time to see how work is actually being done and whether it is aligned with company goals. And be mindful that if there is misalignment, lower engagement and higher turnover could be the toxic side effect.


Inspire and energize your workforce by showing them how their work matters to the success of the organization. Make them feel their contributions are genuinely valued by showing them exactly how their jobs can align to company goals and objectives. When employees feel like they have some control and stake in an organization’s outcome, they feel more connected to an organization and motivated to greater achievements.


5. Stingy sharers –

Is your organization reluctant to share information that you know employees should have? That’s a sure sign that something toxic is bubbling up in the culture. And it could spell a loss of trust in leaders that won’t be easy to gain back. It also could lead to employees who act based on assumptions instead of facts, and that can veer a business off course. And to employees who model behavior on their leaders–so that no one in the company is getting the information they need to do their jobs well.


To ascend to the level of a high-performing organization, do what they do: encourage transparent communication between employees and leaders so work can get done quickly and effectively. Build a culture of trust based on open, honest and proactive communication, and you’ll get the same transparent communication from your employees in return.