4 Signs That Your Workplace Culture Is Working Against You — And How to Fix It

External roadblocks to company success are inevitable – and, unfortunately, not always predictable. We’re talking changes in the competitive landscape to market disruptions to evolving consumer expectations. Companies are quick to shift strategies and priorities to meet these changes before they affect performance.

But what if your roadblocks are internal? Problems lurking in your company culture can work against you just like external issues. Here are four common warning signs of work culture issues and how to fix them, so you can lead a healthy culture that promotes long-term companywide success.

1. You’re not hitting results

Is your team continually missing the mark on projects and deliverables? Is progress sluggish – or worse, have projects come to a complete standstill?

Your employees likely want to meet expectations. When they aren’t, it could be because they don’t know exactly what the company is trying to accomplish. In fact, 85 percent of employees who responded to our Workplace Accountability Study admitted that key results were not clearly defined or well understood throughout their companies. What’s more, 87 percent reported that priorities change frequently, causing confusion around what needs to be achieved and when.

The fix: You can counter this confusion by establishing three to four meaningful, measurable and memorable key results for the whole organization. From there, you can help employees understand how their responsibilities align with those key results. There’s no room for unwritten rules – be as clear as possible to increase productivity and create a culture that values accountability.

2. There’s a knot in the feedback loop

Do your employees shy away from offering feedback to you or others? Do you only give feedback when something goes wrong? If so, feedback likely has a negative association in the office, meaning your employees think of feedback purely as failure or punishment. Our study revealed that only 20 percent of respondents actively seek and offer feedback, which shows that the issue plagues many companies.

The fix: Keep the feedback loop open when things are going right as well as when they’re going wrong. Ask for feedback as often, if not more, than you give it. Create a positive connotation by modeling the behavior you want to see from team members, asking for input and listening carefully to feedback on a regular basis. Always thank your employees and peers for these conversations. Such appreciation will show that you take their opinions seriously and make employees feel more confident when giving and receiving feedback.

3. Collaboration is lacking

Is your team withholding their best and brightest ideas instead of collaborating to find innovative solutions? Silos inhibit group communication that enhances the work environment.

The fix: Dismantle individual mindsets, kick-starting communication and collaboration between departments with a clearly defined key result. For example, if a manufacturer wants to increase safety at a plant, it can be easy for employees to assume the safety team is solely responsible for delivering results. A collaborative, jointly accountable mindset stems from the understanding that everyone plays a role in delivering all results.

4. The blame game is alive and well

Do you hear murmurs like: “Well, it’s not my job,” or “We’re not getting results, but it’s not my fault?” Employees who play the blame game will place for failure on others, wasting time and energy that could be put toward driving results. It results in Below the Line thinking, which is characterized by blame, excuses and disengagement.

The fix: Shift mindsets to Above the Line thinking, which includes assuming responsibility, envisioning results and taking action to achieve them. Encourage employees to focus on what they can control. Explaining how they can improve processes or results within the organization can create a positive environment in which teams grasp the fundamentals of accountability.

For example, we once worked with a midsize startup that had gone eight quarters without hitting its numbers. Understandably, morale and engagement were tanking. People were pointing fingers. Even leadership got in on the act and began blaming one another and their employees. When we introduced accountability into their workplace culture, the shift in attitudes and behavior started driving more positive results. The quarter after that, the startup hit their numbers – and they haven’t looked back since.

The takeaways

If you take anything away from these warning signs, let it be this: Never ignore a company culture that’s working against you. Instead, focus on your people and the key results they need to achieve, and then show them that they have the power to achieve them. Encourage talent development, increase productivity and boost engagement through individual and organizational accountability.

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