Who Gets the Ax? Signs that your Culture is Toxic

I have a friend who is one of the most gifted people I know. To my knowledge, he has found a way to succeed in everything he takes on, despite challenges he faced along the way. I don’t mean to say he is perfect but if you’re in a jam, you want him by your side. Over the past year, when businesses struggled, he hit his goals. The few executives senior to him and board members lavished him with praise. He ended the year on a high note, with a bonus and a personal note from the president of the board telling him to keep up the good work. Three weeks later, he got the proverbial pink slip. No signs of trouble, no advanced warning, no explanation. I can’t help but wonder what the people who made this decision were thinking. How could they let such a talented executive go? Who did they keep and what did those people have to offer that was more valuable? What is the culture that they are trying to create? Did those questions even get asked? A toxic culture was likely at play.

Signs of Toxic Culture

At Baird Group, we are always on the look out for signs of a toxic culture. Some signs are easy to spot – gossiping, turnover, fear, and apathy are hard to hide. What takes a little more digging to uncover is what most people call “office politics” – interdepartmental rivalries, favoritism, taking credit for the work of others, and hidden agendas that have little to do with the success of the organization. I don’t know if any of that came into play in the decision to let my friend go but I know the possibility is real. So, if you’re a leader, it’s to time to wake up and ask the hard questions. Do you know how your culture is impacting hiring and firing decisions? Is that impact a good thing or a bad thing?   

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