3 Ways to Gradually Erode Your Work Culture

Before my transition to Culture Coach, I spent several years as a family therapist. Most often, people came for help when the problem escalated to the point of crisis. They recognized the earlier warning signs and chose to ignore them. Had they addressed the problem earlier, significant consequences could have been prevented and family relationships saved.

The same pattern happens in companies.

I hear things from leaders about employees as I heard from parents about kids….

  • It’s not that bad. He will get better over time.”
  • “She is going through a lot of stress right now in her personal life. She’ll get back on track.”
  • “He seems on edge a lot. Once that big project is over he’ll be back to his old self.”

Leaders often excuse poor performance and behavior and allow it to continue in an attempt to give the employee the benefit of the doubt. However, when allowed to continue the employee perceives that whatever he/she is doing or not doing is okay, The situation is like a beach that gradually erodes over time from the gentle push of the waves, Often times the leader is uncomfortable confronting the employee because he/she fears the employee’s response and/or the leader doesn’t like conflict. I’ve even heard things like “they’ll figure it out on their own.” They might, but typically without structure and accountability it doesn’t last. The poor performance or behavior contributes to a gradual wearing away at work culture.

employee behavior

3 Signs you are allowing your culture to disintegrate:

  1. Ignoring the complaints from other employees. You may think people are blowing things out of proportion or just don’t like the employee. Overcome the urge to excuse or defend, and listen to the warnings of others. Take the complaints seriously and address them with the employee.
  2. Accepting excuses from the employee that aren’t backed by regret. Sure we can all have a bad day from time to time, but does the employee take ownership for his/her behavior? Does he/she show regret about how his/her behavior affects others? When he/she drops the ball on performance, can he/she see impact on co-workers who pick up the slack? Take time to listen, ask direct questions, and get a gauge on the sincerity. Then hold the employee accountable for improvement.

  3. Minimizing the impact on other employees, your culture, and you. In this scenario, you see what’s happening and you choose to downplay the toll this person has on your team or organization by avoiding confrontation.. By doing so, you send the message that poor performance or behavior is allowed and you are part of the problem. How is it acceptable to allow one person’s behavior to disintegrate your culture? Who’s really in charge – you or this employee?

Take Action

As you consider the above and especially the condition of your culture, remember actions speak louder than words. Poor employee performance or behavior rarely improves on its own. If you are ready to dig deep and figure out what is getting in your way, also be ready to take action. Go to whatever measure is necessary to protect the wellbeing of your culture. We’d love to help you address the poor performance and behavior in a constructive manner that moves action forward. Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll show you how to speak candidly and professionally that will benefit the employee, other employees, and your credibility for taking a stand.

Problems that are ignored, rationalized, or minimized multiply and intensify over time. Are you willing to take that risk?

Bonnie Artman Fox is a Work Culture Speaker and Coach. She works with senior leaders to strengthen organizational health through work cultures that optimize performance, productivity, and results. She brings over 25 years of expertise as a psychiatric nurse and marriage & family therapist to help organizations build work cultures where people function at their best. To learn more or bring Bonnie to your company, visit www.bonnieartmanfox.com.