5 ways to kill your culture

Beware of stoking internal competition, micromanagement and the unreasonable pursuit of perfection.

5 culture killers

Every leader wants a positive, magnetic corporate culture, but many don’t know the first thing about how to create—and sustain—meaningful cultural change.

You can start by avoiding these dangerous corporate culture landmines:

Internal competition

Inside competitive work cultures, employees are often expected to operate in a “win/lose” framework, where they’re encouraged to outperform peers. What begins with a healthy race often devolves into unproductive, dog-eat-dog workplace behavior.

“Winning” is a powerful motivator. However, when the need to win overrides teamwork, empathy and unity, you create a cauldron of stress, bitterness and disjointed individual agendas. A hyper-competitive pursuit of results above all else can erode relationships, employee well-being, trust and safety.

Pitting employees against each other—and creating internal struggles for power, control, rewards, promotions and resources—is an easy way to destroy engagement and create a toxic culture.

Micromanagement

No one likes working under a microscope.

A culture rife with micromanagement creates a climate of fear and mistrust, and it screams to employees that you don’t trust them. Workers who feel overly scrutinized will quickly disengage, lose motivation and burn out.

Lack of collaboration and cooperation

How well do your departments share information? Is there substantive symbiosis between your teams?

If your departments are walled-off fortresses that are hostile toward “outsiders,” your productivity—and culture—will suffer.

Pursuit of perfection

Regardless of your industry, 100% perfection is not realistic.

If there’s pressure from the top to be perfect in every regard, you’ll deflate and alienate even your most engaged employees.

In a culture driven by perfection, people do not try new things, and they almost certainly do not put themselves or their reputations at risk to color outside the lines. Unreasonably high expectations leave no room for creativity in your organization. When curiosity is stifled—and “saving face” becomes the primary focus—workers hide mistakes, no one asks for help, and collaboration ceases.

In a workplace that prioritizes perfectionism, staffers are expected to conform, follow the rules, and make a good impression. This is a recipe for a culture that constrains and suffocates employees.

Overemphasis on being liked or ‘getting along’

When team members fear conflict—or even constructive criticism—they won’t feel safe to openly voice opinions or share candid feedback. This creates a culture that prioritizes going with the flow, even if that “flow” is heading toward a cliff.

Not everyone’s going to get along or agree all the time. Organizations that fail to embrace and encourage this tension are bound to turn toxic. Of course, you want colleagues to play nicely and get along, but that desire to “keep the peace” should never override the importance of employees’ feeling comfortable enough to be honest.

A version of this post first appeared on TLNT.

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