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Six Common Culture Killers and What to Do about Them

This article describes six key things that commonly have a negative impact on workplace culture and provides some ideas leaders can use to creating a more positive environment.

What You Stand for as a Leader is Unclear

Our standard of leadership is the foundation upon which our behaviour and our responses to issues and situations depend. If you have not fully explored the criteria that underpin your leadership, it may be that you don’t always respond in a consistent way. You may lack certainty or confidence. You could end up agreeing to things that in fact don’t sit well with you, or not always stand up for what you believe. You may also feel incongruent about the choices and decisions that you sometimes make.

In addition, bot being able to express what your leadership standards are (because I’m sure you have them) makes it difficult for you to set expectations for the team, as well as model and teach leadership.

Take some time to explore what is important to you as a leader. What is it that you stand for? What is important to you? What do you expect of your team members?

People are not Connected to a Common Purpose

Because we spend so much at work, if what we do lacks meaning for us, our sense or feeling of wellbeing both at work and across life generally may suffer as a result and so might our work and our level of engagement. It is important therefore, to create an environment in which people truly feel that what they do has meaning and is meaningful.

To help people feel connected, try having regular conversations with your team and individuals about:

  • Your collective purpose and how that relates back to the organisations broad mission and goals
  • Why you as a team do what you do and how each individual in the team contributes to this
  • What the individuals and team have achieved and how this has contributed to both the team and organisations short and long term goals.

People are not Connected to You or Each Other

Connecting with those we work with at all levels is important. It helps people feel valued and engaged which in turn promotes wellbeing. To foster connection try:

  • Being genuinely curious about peoples’ wellbeing. Learn about them – their interests and family, remember what you learn and check in with them often.
  • Creating the opportunity for social contact within the team and go along as well.
  • Finding out what the long term goals and aspirations are for the people you work with.
  • Making sure that team members spend time doing things they are good at and give feedback – help people grow though your connection towards where they want to be in the future.
  • Recognising and celebrating good work.

People Feel a Lack of Appreciation

Following on from the last point above, people like to be rewarded for the work they do and as we know, pay is not the biggest driver as a reward. Most people prefer to be shown that they are valued in some other way as well, for example:

  • Through personal recognition and acknowledgement
  • Knowing that they matter
  • By being enabled to do what they are good at most of the time and have their achievements celebrated, both publicly and privately
  • Being autonomous


Team members who feel trusted, who feel like they are accomplishing things and making a difference are likely to feel more engaged. Micromanagement occurs commonly because of a lack of trust in self and others, commonly around:

  1. An unconscious fear of losing control e.g. work, timeframes, quality, outcomes
  2. Feeling that the job would not be done the way we would do it
  3. A fear that the job wouldn’t be done to our standards
  4. Concerned that a team member may not have the knowledge, skills and capabilities they need to complete the work


To increase trust, try being SMART about delegation:

  • Specific – what do you specifically need to be done?
  • Measurable – how will you know it is done?
  • Achievable – does the person have the skills and capabilities to do the job and if not how can you help them learn
  • Relevant – how is it important to you, the team, team goals, KPI’s etc. Also how will the learning be important to your team member?
  • Time bound – when does it need to be done by and what reporting mechanism will you put in place to keep track of this

Bullying Behaviours Tolerated

Last but not least, ignoring, denying, justifying or living with bullying behaviours is a significant culture killer. These behaviours have negative impact on individual’s wellbeing, both the person being bullied and the others in the team.

If this is happening in your workplace take steps to address it. Be clear on your leadership standard and make sure others are too (see point 1). Find out your bullying policy. Talk to someone you trust like a mentor, HR, EAP or a coach and find a way of solving this problem.


By Debra Pittam: working with you on to effectively manage change, foster employee engagement and build positive cultures through executive/leadership coaching and facilitation. Let me know how I can help. Call 0421 775 924.

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