10 warning signs of bad company culture and how to improve them

As a company grows, the culture gradually changes, which can in some cases mean faults in the culture easily manifest over time without realising. If the company culture is bad, you’ll start to experience various problems, like low productivity, absenteeism and poor employee retention.

Luckily, there are several warning signs and things you can do to combat them. Here are 10 warning signs of bad company culture and how to improve them.

  1. You haven’t defined your core values
  2. Your managers aren’t following the core values
  3. There’s a lot of gossiping around the office
  4. You’re experiencing a high employee turnover rate
  5. You see unhealthy competition between employees
  6. Employees are late or absent from work 
  7. Your employees rarely take lunch breaks
  8. Employees aren’t adequately rewarded
  9. Employees are regularly staying behind late and working weekends
  10. Your company has bad reviews

1. You haven’t defined your core values

The problem with not having a defined list of core values is your culture will likely progress without a sense of direction. Core values are the driving force behind an organisation and without them, subcultures can form and undermine the organisation’s success.

This is easy to fix. It’s best to develop these with team inputting and asking them what words or values they think summarises your place of work. If these are positive then that’s great and they can become your core values. If anything negative comes out then this is your chance to improve.

Doing this will help create positive attitudes and create a feeling of togetherness within the company. When hiring, you should refer back to your core values to ensure the candidate is a good culture fit.

2. Your managers aren’t following the core values

Whatever industry you work in, employees look to their managers for direction. If senior staff aren’t setting the example by adhering to the core values, other employees will do the same.

If this continues, employees tend to distrust leadership for exempting managers from the rules. This will then create a divide between leadership and the rest of the team. 

The fix is simple - lead by example and hold everyone accountable. Refer to your core values and ensure every person upholds them in your organisation. By making sure all employees are adhering to the same set of standards, you’ll create an open culture upheld by equality.

3. There’s a lot of gossiping around the office

Unfortunately, gossiping doesn’t get left behind in school. In the office, gossip leads to cliques that divide the workforce, turns employees against each other and creates a distrusting culture.

It's best to address the situation head-on to rid your office of this culture. First, you’ll need to identify the individuals who are most frequently involved in gossiping and speak to them separately from the rest of the team. Next, address the entire company so all employees know gossiping isn’t tolerated in the workplace. 

4. You’re experiencing a high employee turnover rate

A high employee turnover rate is nearly always a sign of bad company culture. So, if you’re finding employees are regularly leaving, they’re probably looking for a better company culture.

To fix a bad company culture, you need to get to the root of the problem. Hold exit interviews with employees to understand their reasons for leaving. Take the time to understand what it is about your company culture that has made them unhappy, as well as which parts of the culture they like.

Following this, talk to your current employees to find out why they’re staying. Try surveying the whole company to get ideas on what you need to improve and how you can improve it. It’s best to get ahead of these issues rather than waiting until after people leave, if you can.

5. You see unhealthy competition between employees

Competition is good for business. It motivates employees, encourages better performance and helps the company grow. But when competition is a core focal point of your culture, employees can become unfriendly with one another.

Sometimes this happens because there’s too much value on performance. There’s no shame in wanting your employees to be top performers, but you also need your team to get along. 

To avoid this, try recognising performance outside the confines of monetary awards. Instead, reward employees for their effort and take notice of their achievements with prizes. These prizes could be a gift card or a voucher for a restaurant, for example. 

Alongside this, create a space for team members to congratulate one another, as this will encourage employees to have a team-oriented mindset. 

6. Many employees are often late or absent from work

Your employee’s tardiness could be telling you that they’re disengaged with your organisation. If an employee is frequently absent, they’re most likely disinterested or not passionate about the work they do.

To tackle this, senior and middle managers need to take the lead. For example, if one manager regularly shows up late, their team will believe they can do the same. Once you’ve identified who is repeatedly late for work, you first need to determine if it’s a schedule conflict.

They might have to drop their kids off at school or the public transport they’re using is unreliable. With this information, you could then adjust their starting time. If it’s not a schedule issue, then there is a deeper concern that you need to get to the bottom of.

Through working closely with your HR department, track sicks days, doctor appointments and other approved absences. Be open to discussing personal matters and any other reasons why employees may need time off work. With these approaches, you can help improve your absenteeism rate and create a work culture that encourages communication.

7. Your employees rarely take lunch breaks

If you see employees regularly missing lunch breaks, it’s either because they don’t think management condones taking breaks or they don’t feel they have enough time to stop working. This is poor for business, individual wellbeing and it will reduce employee retention.

Plus, it’s difficult for employees to maintain quality and productivity if they have to work for eight hours nonstop. 

Fortunately, this also has an easy fix. As a manager, make sure you take lunch yourself and take time to remind employees to have a break. You could also provide food for the office to impose a lunch break while taking this time to know your team better and enable employees to socialise with each other.

Make sure new employees are aware of when breaks are and how long they’re allocated for. If they’re not aware of this, they may avoid taking a break altogether. 

8. Employees aren’t adequately rewarded

If you’re only rewarding your top performers, the majority of your workforce will feel undervalued. It can also create a negative culture based on competition, which will create animosity among employees. 

By implementing more feedback sessions between managers and their teams, you can provide constructive feedback while also acknowledging the team member’s great work.

Giving more opportunities for positive reinforcement will motivate individuals and help employees form better relationships with their colleagues. 

9. Employees are regularly staying behind late and working weekends

If you find the majority of your team is staying behind well after the workday ends, it’s a great cause for concern. This may mean your employees are struggling with too many responsibilities or management has unrealistic expectations set for them.

Employees should have goals they can aim for, but they shouldn’t be impractical, as this can lead to burnout. 

To avoid this, talk to managers about reassessing workloads. Make sure all employees have enough responsibilities that they feel challenged, but not so many that it’ll lead to burnout. You might need to reevaluate your entire team’s demands, as if the whole team is struggling to leave work on time, you might have to hire a new team member to share the workload. 

10. Your company has bad reviews

Review platforms enable potential candidates to have more visibility into a company’s culture. Suppose your team is frustrated with the company culture, the management style or emphasis on competition between colleagues. They can take to voicing these frustrations in reviews and job seekers will be discouraged.

Although you can’t control the public’s perception of your company, you can influence what’s written in reviews. You can do this by creating an exciting, happy and supportive work culture for your employees. One that values every team member, encourages development and team building. 

Your company culture feeds into every area of your organisation, so to make sure your team can work together to achieve your core values and goals, it’s best to do a culture audit. 

Nurture the right culture in your organisation

As a company grows, the culture will inevitably change. But it’s important to make sure it’s changing for the better and employees aren’t left unhappy. Our workplace culture audit quiz will help you identify what kind of culture your organisation has. Just click this banner to start.

Take our culture audit here

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