7 Signs Your Culture is in Trouble

signs your culture is in trouble

Spiderman has that whole spidey-sense thing that tells him when something’s about to go sideways.

Batman has that handy-dandy bat-signal that pops up in the night sky to let him know that Gotham needs his particular set of skills.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the rest of us had something like that as it relates to company culture? Wouldn’t it be just fantastic if there were things we could look for that would let us know that our organization’s culture was in trouble?

Well, my friends, let’s skip the superhero spandex outfits (I mean, unless you’ve already got yours on, in which case, do your thing), but here are some signs for you and me. These are some of the signs that your culture is in trouble…

Your Culture is in Trouble if Your CEO is a Toxic Leader

Toxicity at the top of an organization will eventually infect the entire organization. It’s that simple. The effects may be felt most acutely by those in closest working proximity to the toxic boss, but to be sure, the organization will suffer the consequences of the toxic leadership as well in the form of insensitive communication, manipulative and narcissistic tactics, and so on.

Toxicity at the top will eventually infect the entire organization. #leadership #companyculture #hr Click To Tweet

Your Culture is in Trouble if Poor Managers are Allowed to Remain Poor Managers Indefinitely

As an organization’s leadership goes, so goes its culture. Leaders have the ability to shape and cultivate culture, but they also have the ability to make life miserable for their teams if they manage and lead poorly in any number of ways. When managers display a lack of leadership competence — perhaps they are impatient, don’t communicate well, fail to engage their teams in meaningful ways, rarely if ever coach or develop them, etc. — and there’s little to no substantive accountability in place for them; then you can be assured that the culture is in trouble.

A healthy #companyculture doesn't enable poor managers to remain poor managers. #leadership Click To Tweet

Your Culture is in Trouble if Humanness and Vulnerability are Absent

Humanness and vulnerability are at the core of healthy leaders, teams, and organizations; so their absence is a sign that a culture is deep, deep trouble. If you look around and there’s no energy, no life, no laughter, no buzz, no anything — that’s a concern. Where there are humans, there should be signs of…well…human life.

Similarly, where there are humans, there should be humanness; and part of humanness is being vulnerable. I talk about that an awful lot, so I’ll not belabor it here; but without vulnerability, there’s no trust, no healthy team, and no healthy culture.

Where humanness & #vulnerability are absent, so is healthy #companyculture. #leadership #hr Click To Tweet

Your Culture is in Trouble if Accountability is Misunderstood and Only Selectively Applied

Sound the alarm if accountability is something that’s perceived primarily as a weapon that those with power get to wield against their subordinates. Sound it doubly loudly if those with power don’t have any real accountability themselves.

Your #companyculture is in trouble if those w/ power use accountability as a weapon. #leadership Click To Tweet

Your Culture is in Trouble if People Aren’t Learning Much

One of the traits of successful, thriving organizations is that they’re usually learning organizations. So if you look around and there’s not much learning and growth happening from either the individual or organizational perspective, that’s a sign you’ve got a culture issue.

Thriving organizations are learning organizations. #companyculture #leadership #hr Click To Tweet

Your Culture is in Trouble if Teams and Departments have Ongoing Problems Performing their Core Functions

In a healthy culture where people and teams are human and vulnerable, and where accountability is properly understood, ongoing problems with core functions rarely persist because they’re able to be talked about openly, worked through, and pushed through together. If issues persist on a regular basis in a given department, that’s a probable indicator that a cultural dynamic is off.

Your Culture is in Trouble if Executive Team Morale is Low

This is usually an indicator that Sign #1 at the top is likely true, which of course has a cascading effect throughout the rest of the organization as well. And it takes us right back to the first sign…

Now don’t get your superhero spandex in a bunch. Just because you see these things doesn’t mean there’s no hope. It just so happens there’s a way that organizations have been known to find their mojo again. Shoot me an email to talk about it. In the meantime, if I missed some other signs that a culture is in trouble, add them in the comments below!

One thought on “7 Signs Your Culture is in Trouble

  • Matt,

    Thanks for sharing your insights. These are all solid, especially the one about people learning. In addition to the 7 you offer, I would recommend an eight: your culture is in trouble if your employees don’t know or understand your brand. Your employees must see the big picture, must understand why they come to work and must connect your brand with their day to day jobs. If you are struggling with your staff not engaging with your brand then the solution is brand training. The more your employees understand your brand, the stronger culture you will have.


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