Cultural Toxicity Assessment

Culture comprises attitudes, beliefs, thoughts, values and behaviors that characterize organizations. Often we do not understand why organizations do not perform at their potential and we are left struggling to reach the results we desire. As individuals we often think we are performing at our best and are baffled by why others do not do the same. The reality is that even when intentions are good, results only follow when actions are aligned.

Lack of alignment in an organization is often due to the toxicity that affects its culture. When we become conscious of its existence, we can better address it (and bring it down a notch). I find the following to be seven robust indicators of a toxic culture.

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1. Gossip or colluding prevails.

People talk about others rather than directly to them, usually referring to negative aspects and behaviors. For some reason human nature thrives on others misfortunes and mishaps but we all suffer in the end when we do this. Trust goes down when people are talking about people behind their back. This behavior goes against civility, kindness, and respect for others.

2. People do NOT FEEL SAFE in my organization

We feel we will be judged if we step up and make suggestions that deviate from the current method. This fear of saying anything that is out of the ordinary stifles creativity. We feel that if we were to venture to say anything our colleagues, supervisor, or the leadership will jump on us. It is hard to provide quality of service and products when we are afraid to speak up and to bring forth creative ideas.

3. Blaming or shaming is common in the organization

When we do something not quite right rather than own it, we point the finger elsewhere, blaming the cause of our behavior on someone else’s shortcoming rather than ours. This clearly is neither a transparent nor authentic way of being, least of all compassionate.

4. Low morale

Morale suffers when we see people looking at the clock and arriving late or leaving early and not pulling their weight; when we see others get away with behaviors reportedly not tolerated within the organization; or when people get preferential treatment. Thus, we lose faith and engagement.

5. Living in the past.

We all know people that are addicted to storytelling of the past rather than on what we want to do. When we keep that focus it is difficult for us to live in the moment and prepare for the future. We need to have thankfulness for our past experiences and be grateful we can move beyond the status quo. We need to be self-aware and grow our confidence in what is unfolding here and now.

6. Stuck talking about plans and preparing.

How often do you hear how we need to plan and prepare? We keep talking about plans and delay taking that first step into action. Again, we cannot motivate and inspire if we are not passionate and understand the why of what we want to do. After that, however we need to trust ourselves and embark on the journey.

7. Denial or rationalition.

We all too often fail to see the link between our actions (or inaction) and their consequences (or lack of them). This is just the story in our head for why what we are doing is “right”. It lacks the self-awareness to see and the confidence to accept us with our own challenges and look at them as opportunities to reflect upon and improve from the inside out.