Company Culture

7 Ways Leaders Undermine Trust and Destroy Their Company Culture Without Even Realizing It

By April 29, 2020 No Comments

Twenty-first-century workplaces continue to evolve rapidly and dramatically. People not long ago were blocked from accessing social media at their workplace; today we trust individuals can represent their the brand through this ubiquitous medium of communication and collaboration.

By its very nature trust is distinctly human. It is both emotional and logical. It is the foundation of every relationship where creativity and innovation are birthed. A culture of trust is the difference between success and failure. In his book, Trustology, Richard Fagerlin explains vulnerability and respect are both essential for high trust relationships with employees, colleagues and team members. For companies to stay relevant in the 21st century, culture can’t be an afterthought. It’s a necessity for long-term success.

Toxic company culture often starts at the top in the active bad behaviour of a senior leader or by those who have supervisory responsibilities. To get the root of the problem to follow the toxicity wherever it leads because people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Here is a list of the fastest ways to kill a corporate culture.

People have become keyboard warriors. Technology has forever revolutionized both the way we work and how we communicate, though not always for the better. How many people detach themselves from the conversation by typing things they wouldn’t say if they were sitting in front of the other person?

Everything moves quickly in the digital world. When you fail to stop for a meaningful connection, you miss the opportunity to foster relationships and learn from experiences. Celebrate success and learning as a team, regardless of being in a digital world.

Communication is fundamental for an organization to thrive. It is a central priority, so think beyond the staff newsletter with updates around appointments and new client wins. You need to think about communication as a core capability that links the potential of your business to perform.

Swimming with the sharks.

Gossip in the workplace is disastrous. Gossip destroys trust and assails credibility yet it pervades business today. It amplifies innuendo for the pleasure of a few and to the detriment of many. Your leadership is lacking if you feel the need to plug-into the gossip channel to be liked or informed.

Gossip pollutes the corporate culture, creates unnecessary tension and most often creates outright conflict. As a leader you would not tolerate gossip targeted at you, then the same rules apply. Enabling anyone to participate in any activity to the contrary makes you an accomplice in the decline of morale and the decay of business culture. Great leaders don’t tolerate gossip, they set the standards and eradicate it.

Embrace the suck.

The 21st century places culture at the top of priorities. Approaching your work with an all-in-all-the-time mentality is the mantra that must be applied to all areas of work. Hold yourself to account and take responsibility for the consequences of your actions. Anything less is intolerable.

Genuine excellence loses its value when you rattle off an undiluted stream vague praise. Praising someone on their fabulous commitment to hard work gives them no meaningful information about their contribution. The right kind of praise at the right time fosters a culture of excellence. Trite praise won’t do you or anyone else any favours. Professionals don’t need a pat on the back for doing their jobs.

You get more of what you tolerate.

Behaviours must align with the value system to create the desired culture. If you subscribe to mediocrity, you will build a mediocre team that achieves mediocre results. Tough decisions are effortless when you are in alignment with the business values. Dodging those tough decisions will cost you the trust and respect of your people. Values must be the foundation of why a company exists, not just words on a web page.

The shame game.

Public shaming for the day-to-day policing of moral norms is not new. It long has been used as a punishment in all communities and within the workplace. Publicly putting people on the spot to teach them a lesson or make an example of them is one way to name and shame. It is not your job to punish individuals, make examples of them or suppress their views. Move away from shaming to be a more supportive, kinder and more honest through patience and courage creates an environment where both people and business flourish. It starts with you.

The slippery slope.

Inducing fear within the workplace breeds distrust. Micromanaging people gives the same message. Google’s Project Oxygen was launched to learn what makes a better boss. One of the key toxic traits identified is micromanaging by double-checking every employee’s work. That discouragement stains the fabric of the organization.

Trust is tough to maintain and easy to destroy. When you fail to walk the talk, no matter the work program, cultural expectation or change initiative, you will destroy trust if you fail to demonstrate the quality or behavioural expectation. Talk is cheap.

Dreaded bad hire.

Bad hiring decisions can cripple your workplace. Hiring and interviewing talent is one of the most important responsibilities you have as a business leader. A bad apple can wreak havoc on the relationships you have worked so hard to build. They penetrate the company and leave a mark on everything touched along the way. Years of effort can be demolished with a few words or actions.

The people on the frontline witness the behaviours and the indelible mark. Your workforce is burdened by ongoing negative impact as people can only handle so much and before long, good people either move on or crumble under pressure. Interpersonal relationships are influential so what can start as one dissatisfied individual can quickly develop into a sarcastic and negative team culture.

LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner acknowledges that one of his biggest CEO lessons is don’t leave the pitcher in the game for too long. His preference is to sit down with the person and be as transparent as possible, including when he firing an employee.

It only takes one of these behaviours to begin a blazing trail of destruction through your company. You have the power to change and it is never too late to become a leader who will lead your company to the top.

This column was originally published on on 27 June 2018  Copyright 2018 by Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.