How to Change a Toxic Work Culture

With the announcement that Travis Kalanick would be stepping down as the CEO of Uber, it has a lot of people once again considering toxic work cultures and the negative impact this can have on the entire organization.

Silicon Valley has been a good example of how a toxic culture can negatively impact even the most successful and promising of companies, with rumors and reports of everything from sexual harassment to discrimination floating around about Uber and other tech companies.

While there are third-party companies like SIT that develop ways to shift company culture, for example, towards more innovation, what do you do when you’re dealing with a toxic work culture? This is a situation that might also require outside help, but in general, the following are some useful tips to make a shift when necessary.

Conduct Exit Interviews

One of the big mistakes too many companies make is that they don’t conduct exit interviews. Conducting exit interviews aren’t in and of themselves going to solve problems with corporate culture, but they’re going to be one of the best ways to get a handle on the truth of what’s happening, and where potential problems exist.

It’s important to do exit interviews with both people who leave willingly for whatever reason and fired individuals.

These can also serve as a baseline measurements when you put other mechanisms of change in place, to see how you’re doing.

Cultivate Transparency

When people feel like they’re working in a negative environment, they also tend to be less productive, and that impacts the bottom line of the company.

One of the biggest reasons negativity develops and takes hold in a culture is a lack of transparency. When employees feel like everything is happening behind closed doors, that then leads to a sense that there is secrecy, which breeds gossip and animosity.

Just by being honest, upfront and transparent with employees, it can go a long way in remedying some of the toxic elements negatively impacting the organization.

Be Careful with Competition

There’s an idea that successful companies have competitive and often cutthroat employees, but this is what can foster bullying and problems in the workplace. Some competition isn’t a problem, but when it goes too far, that’s when cultures become toxic.

You need employees who strive to succeed but also who can get along with one another.

It’s important to encourage strong company values that emphasize teamwork, and when hiring, try to think about fit as much as qualifications.

Start At the Top

Finally, as is being seen with the Uber situation, sometimes changing a toxic culture requires looking at the top to see where problems exist.

Company leaders ultimately own the culture of their organization, so if you can see that your leaders or even you are fostering competition to the point that it’s negative, encouraging a sense of bullying, or do everything behind a curtain of secrecy, it’s time to make changes.

You can’t expect employees to embrace the changes necessary to eliminate a toxic culture if company leaders aren’t willing to take their own steps.

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