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8 signs your workplace culture needs a reboot

(Story by Andrea Davis originally appeared in EBN)

“Culture is absolutely a benefit,” says Dr. Laura Hamill, an organizational psychologist and chief people officer with Limeade. “When employees think about staying with an organization and thriving in an organization, culture matters way more than typical, tangible benefits. It’s an old-school way of thinking to say that only those things that are in your benefits package are the things that employees really value.” Here are eight signs your workplace culture might be in need of a reboot.

1. Meetings to prepare for the meetings to prepare for the meetings.

“The reason I think this is a symptom of a toxic culture is that the message gets so spun, so tightened up, that there really isn’t the ability to be open, to tell the truth and to talk about things real-time,” says Hamill.

2. ‘Take it offline.’

Overusing the phrase “take it offline” can indicate that important discussions aren’t being had. While there is a time and a place for it, “I’ve seen situations where any time there’s any sort of conflict that feels hard or difficult, the immediate default is ‘take it offline,’” says Hamill. “When someone says that, it means the group doesn’t get to participate in that conversation.”

3. Hierarchy always winning.

If everyone always agrees with the highest-level person in the room, even in casual conversations, that can be a problem, says Hamill, because it indicates employees aren’t comfortable voicing their opinions.

4. Lack of leadership humility.

Cultivating an attitude of ‘I’m not perfect,’ rather than an attitude of arrogance, helps create a healthier culture, says Hamill. “Some of the best companies I’ve worked with are ones where the leaders will say things like ‘I have a lot to learn,’ or ‘I’ve got lots of things I should get better at,’” she says. “That’s a sign of a toxic culture, when the leader has no humility.”

5. Sugarcoating or rationalizing bad news.

Every organization faces challenges and bad things happen, but the way an organization handles those challenges has a big influence on the workplace culture. Companies that are upfront about bad news and solicit feedback for dealing with challenges usually have much healthier cultures than ones that look to rationalize bad news or blame it on a particular customer or situation.

6. Post-meeting politics.

If the real meetings happen after the official meetings, that’s a red flag, says Hamill. “If what’s agreed to in the room is not what really happens, that’s a huge problem,” she says.

7. Obsession with shiny objects.

Companies that focus too much on the next big thing – whatever strategy or opinions that are in vogue at the moment – rather than their core competencies and values put their cultures at risk. Someone in HR or a leadership position reads the latest management book, for example, and “everything gets aligned to that new shiny object,” explains Hamill. “It just whiplashes people way too much.”

8. Employees not wanting to do fun things together.

“It’s interesting when you have some sort of event – something fun for all employees – and people don’t want to go or, the minute they can get out of the event, they leave,” says Hamill. “It’s really healthy when you see people wanting to do those things and that they linger and want to stay after – that’s a sign of a healthy culture.”