5 warning signs of negative culture in the workplace

Posted On: 18 July 2017


It’s all very well talking about creating a great organisational culture, but how do you know if the opposite is plaguing your business? What does negative culture in the workplace look like?

Without further ado, here are five warning signs that not everything is peachy in your business:


Read more: 'Organisational Culture to Enhance Productivity and Profit'


1. Employees never meet set goals or targets

Are your staff members consistently missing their targets or deadlines? If you’ve eliminated the other possible causes—workload, unrealistic goals and lack of skill or knowledge, or a lack of accountability—then culture could be the underlying cause. Negative organisational culture will wear down employee motivation faster than lead pencil on granite. Less motivation means that employees are less invested in what they do, and less productive as a result.


2. Negative office gossip is everywhere

Gossip is virtually unavoidable. It’s ingrained in us. And the right kind can be a good thing. Scientists argue that it can help improve social bonds, which make for a better workplace. However, negative gossip is powerful. One study has found that it can even influence how we visually perceive a person. So when harmless gossip turns nasty, it can soil the relationships and trust between staff members. It’s like throwing chum to attract sharks, and employees will circle, waiting to bite.


3. Employees are pitting against each other

A little competition is always healthy. But when it turns into a rat race, it can really wear a person down. It’s especially true when all your measures of success are based on individual performance, rather than that of the team. Too much emphasis on individual performance causes staff to compete against each other—rather than working together towards a common goal. In the worst-case scenario, they may even sabotage one another to “win”.


4. Rebellious staff members

Rebellion comes in many forms. Some behaviours, such as rudeness or arrogance, are easier to spot and address. However the more damaging kind is the silent rebellion of ‘active disengagement’ i.e the deliberately unproductive employees. According to Gallup, 16 per cent of employees in Australia and New Zealand are actively disengaged at work. They are unhappy, unproductive and are likely to spread negativity around the workplace. If you’re seeing this in your business, it’s a good sign that your company culture is suffering.

“We conduct engagement surveys for many companies in a variety of industries,”  says Greg Allnutt, a business strategist and leadership coach at Advisory.Works.

“It’s easy to see which organisations have actively disengaged staff when our survey shows that 50 per cent of people in that business are thinking about leaving on any given day.”


5. High absenteeism and staff turnover

People get sick. That’s not a problem. But when many are constantly “unwell”, it could be time to think about the reasons why. Do employees hate their job or their coworkers? Are they getting burnt out? Are they stressed-out? The reasons can vary—but they all tie back to culture. And with voluntary staff turnover on the rise, when employees have had enough, or are given better offers, they’ll simply leave.

If these five signs of negative culture are present in your own workplace, it could be time to take a deeper look your organisational culture. But don’t fret, it’s not the end of your business. In fact it could be the start of something new! There are many things you can do as a CEO, CFO, manager, team leader, or ordinary staff member to make your company’s culture better.

Learn more about building a great organisational culture in our free ebook, 'Organisational Culture to Enhance Productivity and Profit'.

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Topics: Company Culture