Employer Branding

5 Early Signs Your Startup’s Work Culture is Toxic

Bad culture in an office can interfere with productivity and slow down business growth. It is not only bad for the business but also workers and the leader as well. It can actually lead to serious health issues such as stress, depression, hypertension and others. This is why any startup owner should watch out for early signs that their office culture could be becoming toxic and weed out the bad seeds before any major damage is done. Here are some of the 5 early signs for a soon-to-be toxic startup culture.

Increasing communication problems

If you realize that conversations between you and employees or among workers have shrunk to a bare minimum, and everyone behaves like they have no idea what’s going on in the enterprise, then you have a problem. This can grow from teams and spread to inter-departments, suppliers, and customers.

Some signs could include managers passing unclear information, using other workers to pass important messages, holding back information and others. Also, the workers do not feel free to ask for clarification of such messages. People will tend to keep distance and are no longer interested in giving feedback or suggestions.

In such a situation, you’ll find that getting the right information is difficult. In fact, you can get different answers to the same question depending on who you ask. This results in an inability to follow processes, failure to implement policies and lack of trust in the enterprise. If not handled in good time, it can spill over to clients and the startup stands to lose business with the affected customers.

Declining motivation among employees

If your employees begin showing signs of dejection, consider the possibility that your startup culture is becoming toxic. It is true that demoralization hits at times, but should only be short-lived. If nothing seems to inspire the workers at all, you miss the creative ideas such an individual could have. Help them regain their energy and passion by rebuilding their trust in the leaders and the organization as a whole.

How can you do this? As the startup owner, start by recognizing their efforts, encouraging freedom of expression, sharing information, and listening to their grievances.

Increasingly cautious employees

This can be a very unfortunate situation, but it happens. Employees begin to watch their back before they speak or do something. This is common in workplaces where employees have been victimized before for something they said or did. Also, environments where witch-hunting and backbiting carry the day could drive workers into such a behavior.

Curb this situation by reassuring workers that all misconduct or disputes will be dealt with fairly. You can go even further and establish systems that can guarantee fair settlement of disputes.

Persistent disgruntlement

When a work environment becomes toxic, negative communication within the organization creeps in. You will notice that workers are always murmuring, grumbling and can become sarcastic. It is a show of dissatisfaction and lack of freedom to air their grievances. If not taken care of, the situation can lead employees to show signs of withdrawal, lack of socialization with fellow workers and might eventually quit the organization.

Cliques and favoritism

In an environment where some people are treated as superior to others, this is a good sign that the work environment is becoming toxic. Nobody wants to feel less appreciated. In such an environment, you will notice that some employees are given preferential treatment openly. Others can steal ideas from fellow workers and go unscathed. There is sexism, racism, and many other forms of discrimination. People can also group in certain ways to intimidate others.

To avoid this, a startup should come up with clear rules that emphasize equality and make sure they are followed. Work rules and regulations should also apply to all, not a specified few. Every employee should be appreciated for their contribution to the enterprise. Besides, promotions should happen based on merits and performance, not relations or special favors.

What other behavioral patterns in your startup have you discovered could lead to a toxic office culture?

Author: Passionate about digital marketing, entrepreneurship, growth and travel, Senko Ðuras is also a co-founder of Point Visible. Loves testing new ideas, projects with unclear specifications and fighting pressure with chill out attitude.

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