8 Ways To Fix Your Company’s Toxic Culture


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Guest blogger Ross Kimbarovsky is founder and CEO at crowdspring and Startup Foundry.  In 2007, Ross left a successful 13-year career as a trial lawyer to pursue his dream of founding a technology company by founding crowdspring – one of the world’s leading marketplaces for crowdsourced logo design, web design, graphic design, product design, and company naming services.

1. Listen to Your Employees. Hear their grievances, validate their experiences and make the changes necessary to address their issues. This can come in the form of one-on-one conversations, a town hall meeting with HR, or simple blind surveys. Listen, validate, and work together to find solutions.

2. Assign Realistic Workloads and Deadlines. This means taking the time to learn what your employees actually do. What are they responsible for and how long do those tasks take? Remember that there are only 60 minutes in every hour and assign tasks accordingly.

3. Communicate Transparently. Employees can’t do their jobs well without understanding the context. Having the information to do one’s job reduces confusion and frustration, making employees happier and more efficient. Hold weekly meetings, send frequent memos or a company newsletter. Share the information they need to know.

4. Acknowledge Work Well Done. A study by the Boston Consulting Group reports “appreciation for your work” as the most important factor to job happiness. Find ways to show appreciation. Tell employees what they’re doing well – they’ll feel appreciated (and be more likely to continue doing it). Build a supportive environment by sharing employee successes and make positive encouragement a group activity.

5. Treat All Employees By the Same Rules. Playing favorites breeds resentment. Examine your company policies – do they unfairly benefit one group over others? Be open to feedback; employees may see problems that you don’t. Then even the playing field and require all employees to follow the rules.

6. Foster Emotional Intelligence. The BCG Study we mentioned included good relationships with colleagues and superiors among the top 5 elements leading to job satisfaction. Banish bullying, disrespect and dismissive behavior. Prioritize emotional intelligence. Provide resources to help employees expand their EQ. Improved emotional intelligence can cure a number of ills.

While these are all great suggestions for every company, be mindful of your business’s challenges and choose your action items accordingly.

7. Implement Your Plan. John Kotter of Kotter International asserts that leaders are catalysts for workplace change. If you’re in charge, you have a powerful platform for motivating change. But, be prepared to live the changes you want to see if you want anyone to take those changes seriously:

  • Making change easy, rewarding and socially acceptable are key to success. Humans have a strong drive to be a part of the group. Normalize the behaviors you seek by asking the social influencers in your business to promote those behaviors, too.
  • Make it easy for your employees to implement positive changes by removing barriers to success. This, again, will require that you listen to your employees to know what those barriers are.
  • Finally, help your employees see how the changes you’re proposing will reward them with a more positive workplace.

8. Reflect and Adapt. Give your new policies and practices time to take root. Change won’t happen overnight.

After a few months, take stock. What has changed? What hasn’t?

Meet with those influencers you enlisted to help with your implementation. Reflect on how things have gone. Different perspectives can offer useful insight.

Assess your progress and adapt your efforts as needed. Keep the lines of communication open.

Cultural change is a big undertaking; but well worth the effort. Perseverance will lead you to success.

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