Floor Tape Store

Monday, November 2, 2020

7 Tell-Tale Signs your Corporate Culture Sucks

Culture is a vital and unique part of every organization. It’s what makes people decide to join a team and is the biggest reason employees choose to stay or leave. It’s the key to gaining (and maintaining) a true competitive edge—one that makes work a place people want to be.

A healthy company culture is crucial for a business to operate efficiently. Given that employee well-being often depends on how well they interact with each other, fostering a positive company attitude helps growth within the business as well as promotes a healthy work environment.

However, it can be easy for leaders to miss when the corporate culture might actually suck. There are many tell-tale signs of a toxic work environment, including these seven big ones that send good employees running for the door:

1. Turnover is High

Let’s get the obvious red flag out of the way first. It’s rarely a good sign that people aren’t sticking around for very long.

If your workplace is a revolving door of new faces, you definitely have a turnover problem.

I’d argue further that turnover is not the only problem here. All the hush-hush about turnover signifies an unnerving company culture. No one seems to care enough to ask, “Hey, where’d John go?” Or maybe they do care, but they are afraid to ask about a disappearing coworker. That is a clear indicator of even more flaws in the culture of the company.

2. Employees Don’t Spend Time Together

I’m not saying your colleagues need to be one big happy group of best friends, but the word on the street is that it’s good for business to have friends at work.

After all, friendship = trust,  and trust = better on-the-job performance. There are some drawbacks with the biggest being that having friends at work is more likely to deplete our emotional energy more than if we didn’t give a rat’s about our coworkers. However, it’s pretty clear that emotional connections built at work foster a more productive, more culture-conducive environment.

If no one spends time together outside work, your organization could be missing out on a big chunk of employee satisfaction. The lack of emotional connection and trust might contribute to a clog in the flow of good ideas.

3. Lack of Ideas from Employees

In my experience, if you seldom hear “I have an idea!” in the workplace, you have a problem.

The problem is probably not that your colleagues don't have ideas. They’re human. With working brains. Those brains spend 40 hours per week at the office. It’s preposterous to think that they don’t have any ideas on how to improve things a little around here.

It's more likely that your colleagues aren’t sharing their innovative thoughts. Oh, they have them—trust me. Where is the engagement of employees gone?

4. De-energized and Unmotivated Workers

This usually indicates a fear-based culture lacking the practice of encouragement and respect often found in a caring environment led by strong servant leaders.

A toxic work culture does not welcome employees to offer their ideas, input, creativity or strengths to the overall company strategy because they are merely worker bees.

Managers dismiss the value of their people and employees are seen as cogs rather than worthy colleagues and business partners in producing excellence. This will suck the life, energy and motivation straight out of your employee.

5. Fear of Failure, Discourage Risk

Part of learning and growth is trial and error. Not everything can be predicted, practiced and projected. If your company culture awards short-term performance and punishes risk takers, you’ll be cultivating a norm of anti-innovation. Allowing employees to fail quickly without repercussion encourages your team to explore possibilities and be more innovative. Your team will feel more valued when it has a voice and that will benefit your business.

6. Shareholder Value is More Important than Customer Value

I believe that relentlessly driving up customer value will lead to increased shareholder value. But relentlessly driving up shareholder value might not help customers at all. The financial markets are a fickle beast at best, and today’s trophy businesses are tomorrow's turkeys. The markets seem to act like a lake full of fish (Piranhas), chuck in a good looking piece of food, and everyone wants a piece of it. The current trend is for businesses to buy up highly prized companies, and sometimes this works when the sum is greater than the parts. But if your business sucks, buying one that doesn’t won’t help you and will just spoil a perfectly good business. You can’t graft success onto a failure.

7. Everyone is Stressed and Under Pressure

The surest sign your organization is sick is when it makes its employees sick. Too much pressure or stress on people doesn’t work or isn’t sustainable. Good employees will put more pressure on themselves than any manager could. They are self-motivated, and know what needs to be done. An organization needs to nurture and nourish talent then focus it. It is that simple.

Different people react differently to stress. Some thrive, others give up and some even subvert the pressure into negative feelings and behavior. But does your company offer praise as well as pressure? Or does it beat you with a stick when you don’t perform, and then beat you with a carrot when you do?

Most companies want great company culture, but only a few do what it takes to actually have it. It certainly doesn’t come easy but pinpointing your weaknesses and shifting your work environment will put you on the right path.

Building great company culture is about being inclusive of all employees, creating a shared philosophy to guide your decisions and protecting that foundation by bringing on and empowering the right people.

When you have great company culture, you’ll feel it, and so will everyone in and around your company. It is not easy to achieve but, once done right, it can't be ignored.

Subscribe to my feed Subscribe via Email LinkedIn Group Facebook Page @TimALeanJourney YouTube Channel SlideShare


  1. We constantly need to be reminded about this, Tim. It is the leader's role to be clear about the vision. A new vision will demand a new culture. In the end, this is the root cause of all those 'lean failures' that people talk about. Keep talking about it!

  2. Great article, it definitely points out some things to avoid once a student like myself enters the real world. I started to compare the reasons to the deadly wastes, and think that the first is related to overproduction. Like you said, the workplace shouldn't be a revolving door, and there shouldn't always be new faces. So we have to look at the higher ups in the company, and ask ourselves the 5 whys to figure out why people are coming and going.

  3. Corporate culture is so important when considering employee satisfaction and retention! Most importantly, the fear of failure or risk and penalization can contribute to major waste within the area of the corporation.

  4. HI there - I'd also add "If alot of people are taking phone calls in the parking lot." A sure sign things aren't great at work.

    Thanks for sharing!