Don’t Lie to Yourself: 3 Myths about Toxic Workplace Cultures

Don’t Lie to Yourself: 3 Myths about Toxic Workplace Cultures

Toxic workplace cultures can make or break a company. It can be the difference between innovation or routine. Happiness or disappointment. Growth or decay.

There’s some significant bottom line impact to boot. Low-level engagement within companies results in a 33 percent decrease in operating income and an 11 percent decrease in earnings growth, as stated in this Entrepreneur article.

If we are not addressing the issues around low engagement and unhealthy behaviors, we are making costly mistakes. And sometimes, our mistakes may not be as obvious as they seem.

Here are three of the top myths that leaders we work with say:

    1. There will be a spontaneous change.

In the depths of our hearts, we, leaders, sometimes wish that one day we could walk into our offices and the negative behaviors/people would just be gone. And then, it is affirmed once more, that they still exist. They may have even grown in size overnight.


Hope is not a strategy, people. Conversations are required. And not just any conversations, they need to get to the heart of the issues and talk about what’s at stake if things don’t change. We teach this skill set in organizations around the globe, because there is an effective way to do it…and a not so effective way.

    1. One negative person will not affect the entire culture.

This is a funny one, because we often use it as an excuse to not confront the problem. In fact, in our recent survey, 80% of employees claimed that their organizations are somewhat to extremely tolerant of colleagues with negative attitudes. And they weren’t happy about it.


One negative person can really destroy a healthy culture, not only because that person can spread beliefs, but also because people see leadership’s complacency. Silence can be equated to “this is okay behavior as long as you produce that large quota…or launch that new product”. People will fill in the silence with their own stories, if you are not communicating.

    1. The culture is out of your control.

You are the culture. You choose what it looks like every day. You choose it in the conversations you have. And even more so if you lead people, you model and reinforce those choices each time you interact with others.


Sometimes this awareness comes naturally to people, and sometimes it doesn’t. There is a need to focus on accountability with cultural expectations. I talk about this more here.

Have you told yourself any of these myths?

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