Following our last blog on Signs your company culture is toxic we wanted to share our thoughts on how a toxic company culture can be changed.

Much evidence points to the competitive advantages gained by businesses working hard to grow a positive company culture (see our Report on The Culture Economy for more on how great company culture defines the best businesses).

In today’s business world, it’s a strong and effective company culture that makes an organisation stand out from the crowd. The transparency of the digital age demands it. So too do consumers and employees. A broken culture isn’t good for anyone. Conversely, a good company culture is good for business, employees and the community. And, it’s a powerful vehicle for social change.

So, if you have woken up to the idea that you have a toxic company culture and you want it to change, what can you do about it? Addressing the problems bound up in a toxic culture isn’t an easy process and it takes time. Nevertheless, it can and should be done.

Changing a toxic company culture requires an open mind, trust, patience, tenacity and a passion for inclusivity. It isn’t just about tweaking systems and processes (though some of that will undoubtedly need to be done). Most important of all, is the understanding that change will come from your own behaviours, as well as believing in your people and providing them with the opportunity to flourish.

In order to change a toxic company culture you’ll need to commit time to the following:

Recognise the issues

Whether a toxic company culture developed through complacency or manipulation, the first step in turning things around is in recognising the issues. These could be anything from poor communication, ineffective leadership and a lack of opportunity for employees, to being results focused, or operating overly bureaucratic systems.

Understand what your company culture is

Before you can instigate any change, you need to know what your company culture is. What makes you different from your competitors? Identify your unique beliefs, behaviours and the practices that support what makes you different. Review your mission and vision statements and conduct a survey to ascertain the views of your employees. What do your employees love about the business and what do they find frustrating?

Weed out toxic employees (including managers)

No matter how much coaching you offer, some employees will be intrinsically entwined in behaviours that are toxic. Be open to the idea that everyone has the potential to change, but also be aware that some team members may not ever be on board with your new vision.

If you are serious about changing toxic behaviours, intervention will be required and that could mean letting people go. Toxic employees aren’t the whole problem, but they could poison and derail your efforts to change.

Squeeze out bullying and disrespect

Productivity and well-being in the workplace are significantly affected by experiences of bullying and disrespect. A positive company culture is based on supportive colleagues and respect.

Improve communication

Transparency and openness are key when it comes to communication in the workplace. Keep employees informed of business decisions and seek feedback. Encourage employees to speak up when something is bothering them and also to put forward ideas.

Invest in coaching training for managers

Coaching your problem employees is as good a place to start than any. While it’s important you replace those unwilling to align to your positive cultural changes, you need to coach them first and provide an opportunity to change.

Encourage accountability

When your people aren’t accountable it damages the team. Micro-managing isn’t the answer. Most employees want to do a good job and in the right environment they will. Give clear instructions and expectations that are measurable and attainable and address any performance issues quickly. Set goals and speak truthfully with consideration of feelings when employees aren’t accountable. Offer flexible solutions.

Recognise achievements

Employees need recognition for hard work, whether it’s in the form of feedback or a reward. Without this, employees will stop going the extra mile.

Promote respect

This comes from the top down. Treat your people with courtesy. Be kind and polite at all times. Think about the language you use and your tone. Encourage employees to express ideas. Listen to what they have to say before responding. Use your employees’ good ideas to make improvements (it shows you listen). Do NOT criticise, nit-pick or belittle.

Create an environment of transparency and trust

Trust your employees to make decisions and ensure they have the information they need to make them. Don’t keep responsibilities, plans or results a secret. Speak openly about the company and where it is heading, including through times of financial struggle. It’s important to encourage supportive and sharing experiences between employees.

Socialise and have fun

Fostering camaraderie in the workplace is all part of creating a great company culture. Strong friendships in the workplace are beneficial and protect against toxic behaviours. To cultivate a good vibe, organise staff events, outings and team lunches. Involve everyone in your CSR (corporate social responsibility) by promoting charity participation (Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day, Save The Children’s Christmas Jumper Day). Creating a warm, fuzzy glow from time to time is all part of the company culture glue.

Culture economy