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9 Signs Your Company Has a Culture Problem

February 26, 20243 min read

No single factor – not sales, marketing, finance, strategy or operations – has more influence over the ultimate success of an organization than its culture.

Here are 9 signs your company has a culture problem:

  1. Success is defined by the people at the top, the people doing the work do not get to set their own goals or decide how best to do their jobs. There is no expectation of or discussion about creativity, coloring outside the lines or taking risks.

  2. Culturally, your organization resembles a strict boarding school or a minimum-security correctional institution more than a community of creative collaborators. Your organization has a policy and procedure for everything, and everyone in the place is accustomed to saying “Better check the policy manual before you do that!” or “You’d better ask your manager if that’s allowed.”

  3. When people quit, there is little to no discussion about it. It’s as though their former and well-liked co-worker never existed. An employee’s departure, even when it is sudden and unexpected, does not lead to conversations in which employees are asked “How do you like working here? What would make this a better place for you to work?”

  4. Your HR department is all about the “hard” topics – rules and policies, compensation and benefits. “Soft” topics like conflict, workload, work/life balance, roles and their overlaps, and the good or bad energy flowing throughout the workplace are the last topics anyone would dream of bringing to HR.

  5. Managers spend their time supervising rather than coaching and inspiring their teammates. There is no appetite on the part of your leadership team for getting to know the employees or understanding how they feel. The only feedback mechanism available to employees is a once-or-twice-a-year Employee Engagement Survey that never leads to changes, more truthful conversation or stronger relationships between team members and their leaders.

  6. Small things get a lot of attention, like dress code and arrival and departure times. Nobody talks about the toxic energy in the company, but everybody talks about the memo that was circulated by management warning employees not to take a sick day right after a holiday. Absenteeism is one of the surest signs of a broken culture.

  7. Managers lead through fear instead of trust. People walk on eggshells trying to keep their managers happy, and managers walk on eggshells trying to keep Directors and VPs happy. As a direct consequence, no one is happy — least of all your customers and shareholders.

  8. There is no overriding mission that people can grab hold of and care about. Anyone who might be tempted to care about the organization’s success and who might inquire about its topmost goals is told “That’s none of your business – just do the work you’ve been assigned to do.”

  9. Employees in your company get constant reminders that their personal lives are their own problems. Even as they are pressured to donate personal time to the company’s cause, their obligations outside of work are given no consideration or value.

The solution to a culture problem is much faster, easier and cost-effective than a broad-scale corporate initiative, but it also takes more guts. It takes leaders who are willing to say, “We’ve allowed the culture in this place to deteriorate to an unacceptable level. This is what we have to talk about – all the time – until we fix it!”

When your employees know their work is valued and they are also valued for who they are and not just their output, your culture problems will begin to recede. When your teammates know that they can tell the truth about what isn’t working in your organization and fear no consequences, they’ll tell you the truth and you know trust has been built.

It’s easy to build trust in an organization if you can only tell the truth to yourself and to your teammates.

Will your leaders rise to the challenge?


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Tamie Rising

Tamie Rising is somatic life and leadership coach, business strategist, and best-selling author helping growth-minded entrepreneurs and professionals carve a path to success without burning out. With her #1 Bestselling book, Pause to Prosper: A Proven Strategy for Entrepreneurs and Executives to Achieve More Through Rest and Reflection, Tamie helps you break from from overwork and overwhelm for good and achieve faster results without the relentless hustle.

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