Lack Of Happiness And Trust: Six Signs Of Problems Brewing In Your Company Culture

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Expert Panel, Forbes Coaches Council

Top business and career coaches from Forbes Coaches Council offer firsthand insights on leadership

A toxic company culture is one of the main reasons why employees desert a job. However, a toxic company culture doesn't simply arise without any forewarning: Symptoms begin to show up within the workplace well before the habits and routines become ingrained. If managers or leaders spot these telltale signs early on, they can take measures to prevent the rise of this destructive force within the office.

But even if the problems are looking to be more developed than you'd like, it doesn't mean it's too late to start moving toward a healthier environment. To find out more, six members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss what to look for when determining whether your company's culture has a serious or growing problem with toxicity. Here is what they advise you watch for:

1. Low Employee Retention

One of the first signs is toxic employee retention. If a company is unable to retain the top talent it is a sure sign the company culture is toxic. Fixing the problem is multifaceted. The company must first of all identify who is unhappy, and then, which employees are actively disengaged. Gallup research indicates that the No. 1 reason employees leave their jobs is because they did not feel appreciated by their direct reports. Meaning, the boss and employee relationship is the most crucial and pivotal relationship within all corporations. That’s a start. - Adriana Rosales, Adriana & Company™

2. Lack Of Communication And Trust

Watch for a lack of communication between management and employees and lack of trust, as well as strategies only being carried out by force. Reflect the observation back to the management with a 360-degree survey. But most importantly, reflect with the leadership team on the psychological side of their leadership behavior. - Silke Glaab, SilkCelia

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

3. A 'Me Vs. We' Mindset

When people spend more time and effort covering their backs than contributing to solutions, a definite vibe of “me vs. we” can be picked up. The first step to fixing? Explore the behaviors that are contributing to this culture, where they are coming from and whether there is a desire to “shift things” at the top; i.e. the senior leadership team. Culture starts from the top! - Suzanne Ricard-Greenway, 20/20 Vision Coaching Services

Read more in Want Your Team To Adopt A Growth Mindset? Here's How To Start With Yourself

4. Erratic, Frequent Change

One sign of a toxic culture is erratic and all-too-frequent change. That behavior is often coupled with an overwhelming collective agreement, seeming alignment, and false harmony. The danger of it is that it looks so good from the outside and that all employee satisfaction surveys come back positive. However, it can be a sign of a toxic cycle of ongoing top-down changes that produce “silenced” employees, i.e. employees that have learned to play along but are not engaged any longer. In reaction to that, HR and top management plan more and more change initiatives to drive a culture transformation, while achieving the opposite. One way of breaking the cycle is to stop the overall changes that are supposed to bring change and instead create more and more structuralized opportunities for employees to fill the existing procedures and team efforts with life in their own unique ways. - Erika Jacobi, Ph.D., LC GLOBAL Consulting Inc.

5. Leaders Unaware Of Lack Of Diversity

When company leaders say they are "diverse enough" or that they are "inclusive enough," I know there are real problems with the culture. I know from those statements that they are not aware of the issues and of the benefits of having diversity in their organizations. People who "get it" tend to not say those things. Fixing the problem takes more than a few steps, but well-designed unconscious bias training and programs can at least start the process. Changes need to come from the top, and getting executives onboard is one of the first steps toward positive change. - Susan Madsen, Woodbury School of Business, Utah Valley University

Read more in Diversity Beyond Lip Service

6. Excessive Gossiping

When people are gossiping a lot, it's a good indicator that a toxic workplace is brewing. How to deal with it? When people are talking negatively to me about someone else, my first response is not to allow myself to be complicit in the gossiping. I may listen to get the gist of the issue, but then I'll turn the conversation back to the gossiper, asking him if he has voiced his concerns directly to the target of the gossip. If not, I might ask "What would it take for you to raise these concerns directly?" or "How can I help you raise these concerns directly?" At a minimum, this approach tells the gossiper I am not receptive to the negativity. It might help the gossiper recognize there are more skillful ways of interacting with colleagues and encourage them to address any issues directly and constructively. Interrupting the gossip sends an important signal that "this behavior is not helpful here." - Valerie Lingeman, Double Helix Learning LLC

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A toxic company culture is one of the main reasons why employees desert a job. However, a toxic company culture doesn't simply arise without any forewarning: Symptoms begin to show up within the workplace well before the habits and routines become ingrained. If managers or leaders spot these telltale signs early on, they can take measures to prevent the rise of this destructive force within the office.

But even if the problems are looking to be more developed than you'd like, it doesn't mean it's too late to start moving toward a healthier environment. To find out more, six members of Forbes Coaches Council discuss what to look for when determining whether your company's culture has a serious or growing problem with toxicity. Here is what they advise you watch for:

1. Low Employee Retention

One of the first signs is toxic employee retention. If a company is unable to retain the top talent it is a sure sign the company culture is toxic. Fixing the problem is multifaceted. The company must first of all identify who is unhappy, and then, which employees are actively disengaged. Gallup research indicates that the No. 1 reason employees leave their jobs is because they did not feel appreciated by their direct reports. Meaning, the boss and employee relationship is the most crucial and pivotal relationship within all corporations. That’s a start. - Adriana Rosales, Adriana & Company™

2. Lack Of Communication And Trust

Watch for a lack of communication between management and employees and lack of trust, as well as strategies only being carried out by force. Reflect the observation back to the management with a 360-degree survey. But most importantly, reflect with the leadership team on the psychological side of their leadership behavior. - Silke Glaab, SilkCelia

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

3. A 'Me Vs. We' Mindset

When people spend more time and effort covering their backs than contributing to solutions, a definite vibe of “me vs. we” can be picked up. The first step to fixing? Explore the behaviors that are contributing to this culture, where they are coming from and whether there is a desire to “shift things” at the top; i.e. the senior leadership team. Culture starts from the top! - Suzanne Ricard-Greenway, 20/20 Vision Coaching Services

Read more in Want Your Team To Adopt A Growth Mindset? Here's How To Start With Yourself

4. Erratic, Frequent Change

One sign of a toxic culture is erratic and all-too-frequent change. That behavior is often coupled with an overwhelming collective agreement, seeming alignment, and false harmony. The danger of it is that it looks so good from the outside and that all employee satisfaction surveys come back positive. However, it can be a sign of a toxic cycle of ongoing top-down changes that produce “silenced” employees, i.e. employees that have learned to play along but are not engaged any longer. In reaction to that, HR and top management plan more and more change initiatives to drive a culture transformation, while achieving the opposite. One way of breaking the cycle is to stop the overall changes that are supposed to bring change and instead create more and more structuralized opportunities for employees to fill the existing procedures and team efforts with life in their own unique ways. - Erika Jacobi, Ph.D., LC GLOBAL Consulting Inc.

5. Leaders Unaware Of Lack Of Diversity

When company leaders say they are "diverse enough" or that they are "inclusive enough," I know there are real problems with the culture. I know from those statements that they are not aware of the issues and of the benefits of having diversity in their organizations. People who "get it" tend to not say those things. Fixing the problem takes more than a few steps, but well-designed unconscious bias training and programs can at least start the process. Changes need to come from the top, and getting executives onboard is one of the first steps toward positive change. - Susan Madsen, Woodbury School of Business, Utah Valley University

Read more in Diversity Beyond Lip Service

6. Excessive Gossiping

When people are gossiping a lot, it's a good indicator that a toxic workplace is brewing. How to deal with it? When people are talking negatively to me about someone else, my first response is not to allow myself to be complicit in the gossiping. I may listen to get the gist of the issue, but then I'll turn the conversation back to the gossiper, asking him if he has voiced his concerns directly to the target of the gossip. If not, I might ask "What would it take for you to raise these concerns directly?" or "How can I help you raise these concerns directly?" At a minimum, this approach tells the gossiper I am not receptive to the negativity. It might help the gossiper recognize there are more skillful ways of interacting with colleagues and encourage them to address any issues directly and constructively. Interrupting the gossip sends an important signal that "this behavior is not helpful here." - Valerie Lingeman, Double Helix Learning LLC

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Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only, fee-based organization comprised of leading business coaches and career coaches. Find out if you qualify at forbescoachesc...