Bottom line: a toxic work culture is bad for business

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Peter Drucker’s famous quote rings just as true today as it did in 2006 when he first uttered the words, reminding us that no matter how well considered your strategy may be, it’s nothing more than a paper exercise without engaged employees who contribute meaningfully to company culture to execute it.

Reaching the end of the financial year only to find that there was no shift in business performance, despite ticking all the boxes on strategy is an experience many leaders dread, especially with the Board and key stakeholders to answer to.

An unhappy work environment casts a dark cloud over a company, its people, and its operations. It causes an unfortunate ripple effect that permeates every facet of a business and threatens its very existence. By now, most leaders are aware of this cycle: toxic, disabling work cultures result in unhappy, disengaged employees and, by extension, poor productivity. All this spells trouble for a business’s bottom line.

From dealing with organisational change to navigating office politics, there are many factors constantly at play and contributing toward the overall culture of an organisation. Leadership teams have an important role to play in this regard, ensuring there is effective communication and dialogue taking place between employees and management, that there are measures in place to prevent favouritism, bullying, and unhealthy workplace practices.

It sounds simple enough to just tick these items off the ‘detoxify your workplace’ list. However, taking a well-considered and holistic approach to improving workplace culture is crucial to ensuring sustainable transformation in the long run.

What do we mean when we talk about a ‘holistic’ approach? It has to do with taking the whole organisation and all its parts into consideration, instead of zeroing in on or trying to ‘fix’ just one single aspect. Consider, for example, the ripple effect that unhappy employees have on productivity and the bottom line – remedying this involves examining the environment that people operate within and performing a complete evaluation of all its parts.

  1. Leadership

A strong leadership team fosters an engaged workforce and helps to retain valuable talent. Strengthening the leaders of an organisation starts with role modelling the organisational values, involving employees in setting and achieving business objectives, and participating in decision making. We know that a lack of communication often leads to distrust, dissatisfaction and grapevine talk across all levels of an organisation – keeping everyone in the loop, especially when it comes to change and decision-making, prevents dissension and misinformation through gossip.

  1. Management

Next in line are the managers of a company, who have a direct impact on staff morale and productivity. It is a known fact and well researched that people leave managers not the organisation, a manager’s behaviour should be enabling, open, encouraging and supportive, but in many cases, we find that they are the opposite, taking the fun out of work by stifling innovation and growth.

Across countries we have witnessed the promotion of technically skilled individuals to management positions without equipping them with the skills to manage. Management is not just a title but a job, like any other, this important role requires the manager to develop people, provide feedback, recognise, and appreciate work performance, coach, and mentor to name a few. Ensuring managers have the tools they need to manage effectively is crucial. Coaching interventions and training programmes designed to educate inexperienced managers on how to find their feet in their new roles are key to positive transformation.

  1. People

Employees need to have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. If these are unclear, they cannot be expected to perform well or achieve their targets. Performance reviews that have been properly thought out and aligned with these responsibilities form part of this, and the implementation thereof is the responsibility of leadership and management.

In addition, encouraging employees to ‘buy in’ to the objectives, vision and values of the organisation is a crucial step in the cultural transformation process. Having a better understanding of these fundamental basics is key, as employees who don’t understand or believe in what an organisation is trying to achieve, won’t care about the role they play in contributing to this.

  1. Your strategic narrative

A strategic narrative is vital to ignite the passion in people, making them believe in the positive difference the organisation makes to people and greater communities.

According to a popular legend, during a tour of NASA headquarters in 1961, John F. Kennedy encountered a janitor mopping the floors. “Why are you working so late?” Kennedy asked. “Mr President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

What great work does your organisation do?

“Employee engagement is not a tangible input,

but a result of the many practices

that create an environment and culture of engagement.”

It’s time to transform your workplace (including your work-from-home policy) to a more positive, enabling one. Finding out what your employees are feeling and experiencing working at your organisation is a major part of this.

Contact us now to take our employee engagement/climate and culture survey at info@awakeningexcellence.co.za.

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