Goodbye and Good Riddance – how a toxic culture can kill your company

Goodbye and Good Riddance – how a toxic culture can kill your company

It’s been said that people do not leave their COMPANY, rather, they leave their BOSS or possibly even, the prevailing CULTURE.

Recently, I spoke to someone who said something profound about where they are working;  “It’s crowded, but lonely”.  This person is now actively looking to leave the business.

While it may read as a throw away comment – if you truly stop and think about the words – the gravity of this person’s statement starts to settle in.

The average employed person spends more time at his or her workplace than they do at home with their loved ones.  If things are going really well for you at your work place, then no doubt you’ll bound of bed, get dressed and give it all you’ve got for your boss/company.

However, if things aren’t going all that well at work – you will still get out of bed, eventually, and trudge into work to merely fulfil your attendance – but will you ‘give it all for your boss or the company’?  Will you go above and beyond any discretionary effort?  Probably not.

Much has been written and spoken about the effects of a toxic or even poor work culture, yet, over and over again businesses continue to let the culture unfold of its own accord.

The key signs of a toxic work culture

When it’s too late, i.e. people leaving in droves, management often stands confused and bemused – followed by the statement, ‘why didn’t anyone tell me this was going on’? There will have been many tell-tale signs pointing to a toxic work culture. And most frustrating part?  Management or senior leadership would have driven the negative nature of their culture – maybe without even knowing about it.

As a business owner/senior leader – you do not have to be blindsided by the sudden realisation of something very wrong within the business. Some of the more obvious lead indicators of a poor or even toxic culture within a business include;

Lack of communication

This is the perennial issue!

Communication issues will manifest in any number of ways ranging from no communication at all (being kept in the dark) through to passive-aggressive communication.  Issues between people/departments that are left unresolved will fester into ‘storms in tea cups’ and ultimately, everyone battening the hatches to protect their own turf/dominion/reputations.

Typical examples of poor/no communication include:

  • Being kept in the dark about newly implemented decisions
  • Emails – that are open to interpretation and that lack clarity
  • Lack of transparency
  • Lack of specific objectives
  • The rumour mill in overdrive
  • Lack of any updates – on the business, performance, expectations etc – then being blindsided with confrontation
  • Passive-aggressive comments, including no support from the business and/or your colleagues

Leadership issues – ‘the fish rotting at the head’

Basically, bad behaviour drives more bad behaviour.  Narcissistic leaders particularly, can encourage an atmosphere of negativity and intolerance in the workplace. One of the main characteristics of toxic leadership is managers who treat employees with disrespect, arrogance or condescension.

Their view is that employees are beneath them and feel that the ‘deserving’ ones are those who comply and bend to their whims.


This sounds like an issue between an older and younger sibling. In an organisation, every employee is expected to follow the rules. If some in the business are given opportunities to climb up the ladder, whilst other not (for legitimate reasons), then It is totally unacceptable. 

That is blatant favouritism – and by doing so, the business well and truly exposes its self to not realising the full potential of their employees.

Focusing on benefits alone

Money is a great short-term motivator. However, if your only source of employee motivation is paying them more or them relying on company incentives (bonuses), then, you are on a very short road! Long term purpose and satisfaction will never be achieved through money on its own.

This is where crafting, communicating and selling a compelling company vision/mission will result in a better employee retention rate that merely end of year bonuses.

Remember, your competitor can easily up the ante on bonuses – however, it’s much harder to do so with something more intrinsic such as an emotive vision.

Finally, within minutes of a visitor coming into your business, they will be able to tell what the culture is – i.e. is it good, bad, toxic or even non-existent.

For a no obligation consultation, call Recruitment Australia on 02 9634 5912.