5 leading indicators of a declining (or already bad) organizational culture

Here at Kraukman, we’ve spent time working in several large and small companies and have identified 5 things that consistently lead to negative, unproductive and a hard-to-work-in culture.

Bad culture is the outcome, and the little things that create it can be traced to a few important big things. Ladies and gentleman, from what we’ve seen, the quickest path to building a terrible culture is through the following.

1) Meaningless values

Values!? What do you mean? I think those words on our website… I can’t remember for sure…

It’s never a question of whether your values mean anything, it’s how senior leadership makes them into something. If your values include collaboration and risk-taking, are they celebrated, rewarded and socialized? If not, expect them to mean nothing.

2) Incongruence between what you say you want and what you reward…

Building off the values discussion. Something we see in consistently toxic cultures is when leaders tell employees values are important and then turn and recognize, reward and celebrate the earth scorchers who succeed at the expense of others. It’s a classic ‘looksy-loo’ that creates passionless clock-punchers.

3) Promote based on longevity and individual contribution

A nasty culture breaker is when organizations don’t truly search for mythical leadership qualities. They blindly employ a method that cultivates and empowers entitlement by simply promoting the person who’s been there the longest. To make matters worse, if they’ve been there the longest and have been an aggressive and productive lone-wolf.

4) They hire fast to stay committed the pace… so rapid growth destroys the culture on it’s own

Unfortunately we’ve seen successful companies on a fast-growth trajectory. Just bring on relatively competent, warm bodies as fast as possible. Don’t waste your time discussing or finding “fit” your “culture,” culture will take care of itself (just like budgets balance themselves). This will surely lead to a messy outcome.

5) Don’t provide feedback

The problem in many organizations is a lack of feedback. Feedback is seen as taking too long, ‘people don’t change anyhow’, so forget feedback, right? The result is, you let them perform poorly until it gets so bad you blindside them through termination. The worst-case situation is to NOT course correct early and often, let the people who make it a challenging workplace run wild until another leader inherits the problems later on – we deal with this way too often! Not giving feedback and letting things go on is a total morale killer.

Remember, what you recognize, reward and celebrate will succeed in your organization. To truly commit to developing a strong culture, start by developing a strategy to address these 5 things; it’s simple, not easy.

These are Kraukman’s top 5. What would you add?