5 Surefire Signs Of A Suffocating Office Culture

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Woman stressed out

Adobe Stock / Fotos 593

Kristina Udice
Kristina Udice
How would you describe your work culture? Is your office a supportive one with plenty of support? Or does it feel, well, just plain toxic? Read on for some signs that it may be the latter.

How do you create a good office culture?

What is a positive workplace culture? When it comes to company culture, many organizations and businesses have put forth initiatives to create an open and welcoming office environment
They understand the cultural and company value of having an office space environment that is open, honest, and friendly, as this will drive success. For some, this means establishing the company vision through meetings and seminars that invigorate and inspire employees to work toward goals and targets. It also includes pushing for an open office environment through activities and group trips to really bring employees together.
These initiatives are great for creating a cultural and cohesive office environment, but there are certain behaviors that can make an office space tense. And these toxic, office culture killers need to be avoided at all costs. 

What is the culture of your organization?

To get a feel for the behaviors we are talking about, check out these five toxic behaviors to avoid in the workplace to ensure an office culture that thrives.

1. Strict, nonsensical rules

If your employees sense that there are rules set in place for no real reason, it can put them on edge. These can include a very strict dress code, specific lunch hour parameters, unrelenting start or end times for the workday, and so on. If these rules don’t have a basis in some kind of common sense and don’t work to achieve some goal, workers will see right through them. Not only that, but it sets up a culture and environment of rigorous and uncompromising rules that make people uncomfortable and may force them to shy away from integrating into the company and office culture, as well as with their colleagues and superiors. 
Instead of instilling harsh rules, have a conversation with your employees about what your goals are and how everyone can collectively achieve them. Of course, an office and a company have to have rules, but there should be flexibility. And any rule set in place should have an origin that makes sense to most people. Otherwise, you’ll have an office culture of robots that are constantly filtering in and out of the company — and nobody wants to see that.

2. Lack of cultural leadership from the top, down

When it comes to company and corporate culture, it needs to start from the top, down. You can’t just expect employees to perpetuate the culture and engage in company activities if they don’t see their managers and superiors also engaging with the same amount of enthusiasm. It’s also important that superiors set the tone for an office environment because people will see it and respect it more. 
If superiors and managers don’t get involved, there is no real incentive for employees down the ladder to engage. And if this happens, your office will be a stale, cold, lifeless place where people do their work and leave without any real enthusiasm, ambition, or drive to really succeed in their own jobs, and to see success for the company as a whole. You want people to be excited — to some degree — about the job they’re doing and the company they work for. And it all starts with leadership. 

3. Established cliques

This is a toxic behavior that needs to be nipped in the bud quick, or else the entire company will devolve into a high school cafeteria. It’s perfectly fine to have established friend groups within a company, but when these groups become exclusive and unachievable to enter, then people get frustrated, nervous, and uncomfortable. Established cliques tell new workers especially that they’re the new kids on the block and everyone is looking out for their failure. It also heightens the paranoia because people start to wonder what these cliques are talking about, who they’re targeting, and what their intentions are. It’s also much easier to assume the worst and fear for negativity from established cliques that aren’t welcoming to new members. 
To alleviate this, try to push for more group activities. Try breaking up these groups by dividing people up to work on tasks together and to hopefully open up to new, blossoming relationships. If you have an established team, separate them for a task or two. Cliques can exist, but they set the tone for a corporate culture that might make people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable which may force them to complain and eventually leave altogether. 

4. Poor communication

Poor communication is a big stressor for a lot of people, and one of the main reasons they decide to leave a company. By not communicating, you are telling your employees and peers that you don’t care about what they think or feel, and only care about getting the job done. Also, poor communication leads to confusion and more mistakes because people aren’t clear about what they’re supposed to be doing. If you establish a company culture of poor communication, people will constantly be questioning what they’re doing. They’ll fear making mistakes just as much as they will fear asking for clarification. 
Examples of poor communication could mean employees finding out via word-of-mouth about big changes that could affect them within the company, being given misleading information about a project, client, or event, and the very worst, intentionally not telling someone information to sabotage them. Whether intentional or not, poor communication creates a culture of confusion, paranoia, and discomfort that keeps people from engaging and interacting with their peers, which means workplace culture is a failed endeavor.

5. Managers who don’t manage

This is another leadership problem that could spell disaster for your company culture. If you have managers that can’t delegate, then you’ll have a circus on your hands. People need some structure, and while it’s good for a manager to want to have a friendly, personal relationship with those that they manage, they also need to push their colleagues to achieve goals and see results. Without this direction, everyone is lost. It also spells disaster when the end of the quarter comes — because while the responsibility falls on the manager, their team will feel the heat. 
On the flip side, having an unrelenting manager also increases toxicity in the workplace by causing people to fear them. And you don’t want your employees feeling sick to their stomach with anxiety every morning before work fearing that their manager is going to throw an unexpected and unrealistic project on them at the last minute, or reprimand them for not completing a task they weren’t clear about to begin with. This is a sure-fire way to kill workplace culture.

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