Signs of Cultural Decline in the Workplace

It is surprising to me that sometimes organizational leaders are unaware that they are tolerating (or have created) a toxic culture.  I recognize that senior leaders are not mired in the weeds on a day to day basis and they perhaps don't get enough face time with people to see the early decline in morale, but the signs of a bad culture can sometimes be spotted by just looking around.

I've had discussions about this with leaders within my organization as well as outside of it.  Someone once made a comment about the state of the bathrooms and my first reaction was, "people who are proud of where they work don't do that."

I made the comment off the cuff and sort of flippantly but the more I think about it the more I realize that it is true.  There are a lot of things people do in their behaviors or the way they present themselves and their work spaces that indicate they do not have any pride in their job.

Disgruntled employees can be occasional.  Every workplace has someone who is miserable and shows no interest.  The problem for the organization is when this becomes the norm.  What is worse is when other employees find the behaviors so norm.  I recall a time I was in an elevator and there was quite a mess left in there, no doubt intentionally, by another employee.  The only the worse than the mess left behind was my absolute lack of shock about it.  I barely took notice.  It had become the norm to me.

I think of the people I know who all love what they do, that feel passionate about it, that excel in their jobs and they all have something in common: they approach it with a sense of pride.  They dress in a manner that reflect their interest in their job.  They look tidy and clean.  They maintain a clean and organized work space.  These people are contributing to a positive culture.

However, when this become scant in the workplace, there is a culture problem.  And a negative culture impacts even the most resilient workers.  I always feel like I am fairly resilient against a negative culture.  My best quality in the workplace, in my opinion, is my genuine enthusiasm.  However, there was a time when I felt so beaten down, I packed my personal belongings in a box and took them home.  All I left in my work space were the things I needed for work.  I no longer felt like having a photo of my dogs at my desk, because I no longer felt or wanted to feel attached to my workplace.  That was a hard day for me, because it is very unlike me to lose my enthusiasm so sharply.

I hate it when senior leaders seem blind to the things going on around them.  Happy and engaged employees don't show up in sweat pants and leave trash in the hallways.  They take pride in their workplace.  I think we should be shocked when people demonstrate disgusting behaviors at work (such as some of the things I have seen in the bathrooms). The sad part is when the shock goes away, and it becomes typical. 

Leadership need to be more tuned in to what is going on around them and address the cultural breakdown before it gets unbearable.