In one of the TikTok videos I shared, someone commented that it was not possible to have good culture and high performance at the same time. “As long as we make our bosses profit, they do not care about employees’ good attitude.”

Is this true for many employers?

How organizations create toxic culture in their organizations, begins with a lack of consistency.

Lack of consistency in treating poor behaviour, in upholding standards, and in enforcing policies.

Culture and policies are designed to protect the organization, and if these are exceptionally differentiated for certain individuals, this can create a lot of disharmony, and discord among the team.

Toxic culture exists in several of these organizations, just to give it an example:

  • Family-run businesses: Where children and relatives are working in the business, and by virtue of relations with the Founders or Shareholders of the business, people are tip-toeing around specific individuals. This might even be happening unintentionally, or unconsciously, but staff will be more careful in calling out related individuals.
  • Legacy businesses: Businesses that have been around for a long time, and their employees could be around for as long as the business, might hold a “grandmaster title” by virtue of being around since the beginning. This might cause the company structure to provide exceptions to these individuals.
  • Specialized teams: Individuals with very special or unique tasks that only they can perform, and impacts the bottom line of the organization significantly.

Developing a positive culture in a toxic environment can be a challenging task, but it is possible with the right approach and mindset.

Here are some steps that you can take to develop a positive culture in a toxic environment:

  1. Set A Positive Example: As a leader or team member, it is important to set a positive example for others to follow. This means showing kindness, empathy, and respect to everyone, even in difficult situations.
  2. Address Toxic Behaviour: Toxic behaviour can spread like a virus and undermine any efforts to create a positive culture. It is important to address toxic behaviour and make it clear that it won’t be tolerated. Being consistent with addressing and calling out the toxic behaviour is important. Might help to have a strong personality for your HR representative, to issue strict warnings, and he/she is given clear responsibilities to address these issues.
  3. Foster Open Communication: Encourage open and honest communication among team members. This can help identify issues and address them before they become bigger problems. At times it helps to have a neutral party facilitate conversations to ensure healthy outcomes. Some conversations can be difficult, and this requires a good investment of time, but it will go a long way for the organization toward more holistic change.
  4. Recognize And Celebrate Successes: Celebrate small successes and achievements along the way. This can help build morale and create a more positive atmosphere. It is human nature to call out just the improvements, but calling out wins and successes truly helps employees to know where to repeat and recur specific positive behaviours.
  5. Provide Opportunities For Growth And Development: Providing opportunities for growth and development can help employees feel valued and motivated, and can also lead to a more positive culture. In a toxic culture, employees might feel that they have extra work while others don’t. It is important to communicate the fairness of opportunities across the board and continue coaching conversations with each team member to identify what they want from their careers.
  6. Encourage Collaboration: Encourage collaboration and teamwork among team members. This can help break down silos and create a more positive and supportive work environment.
  7. Celebrate Diversity: Recognize and celebrate the diversity of your team. This can help create a more inclusive culture and promote understanding and respect for different perspectives. Everyone has a role to play in the organization, and all roles from cleaners to project leads, must be celebrated.

Overall, developing a positive culture in a toxic environment requires effort, patience, and persistence. But with the right approach, it is possible to transform a toxic environment into a more positive and supportive one.

A positive and supportive environment helps create a more trusted working environment. Not one where employees are happy all the time, as happiness is misused in organizations as the final outcome.

Employees will feel stressed, and pressured to grow, but a supportive and trust-filled environment will enable employees to handle this stress and cope with the changes initiated by the organization.

If you like to learn more on how to not only create a positive culture in your organisation but also to take your leaders to another level, click here to find out more about our signature “Coach Foundation Program”.