How to Fix a Toxic Work Culture

3 min read
Mar 21, 2017


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last several months, you’ve probably seen that Uber has been in the news a lot lately — and not for good reasons.

In February, a female engineered penned an explosive blog post alleging Uber’s culture to be sexist and toxic. Also in February, a video leaked showing Uber CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver. Ultimately, Kalanick, 40, apologized for his behavior and assured employees and investors alike that he needed to grow up.

Fast forward a few days later, and Kalanick was in the news once again. He’d attended a questionably themed party celebrating the birthday of Dropbox CEO Drew Houston.

Now, there’s story after story describing Uber’s toxic work culture. Investors aren’t happy.

It remains to be seen how Uber’s story will wind up — and whether Kalanick will continue on in his role as CEO. Regardless, the good news is that toxic work cultures can be fixed, as long as various stakeholders are willing to make changes.

toxic work cultureSOURCE: GIPHY

In order to improve a toxic work culture, the person at the top of an organization needs to be on board and understand that changes need to be made. Culture starts at the top. If a CEO is not ready to change the culture, things will stay the same. The fact that Kalanick has ostensibly taken responsibility for his actions is a good sign for Uber.

But anyone who’s ever worked in a toxic environment knows how uninspiring and defeating it can feel. It’s not enough to simply say you’re going to improve your culture and expect your employees to buy into that notion. Once executives and management have decided culture needs to be revamped, it’s time to get the rest of the team on board. That can be accomplished by:

  • Recognizing your team’s hard work: Studies show that employee recognition helps boost engagement. Prove to your employees that you love the work that they do and value their contributions by recognizing their hard work regularly.
  • Making sure everyone understands their job expectations: You can’t expect to have a great corporate culture if nobody knows what their bosses expect them to do. Improve your culture by clearly defining job expectations so everyone knows what they’re responsible for.
  • Holding everyone to the same standards: In toxic cultures, there are generally employees who are considered “favorites.” These people can do no wrong. When they act out of line or drop the ball, they get a free pass. Everyone else who’s not in that group is treated differently. If you want to clean up a toxic culture, you need to make sure everyone is treated the same way.
  • Distributing work evenly: According to our research, nearly 70% of employees say they have a hard time getting their work done each week. If some employees have considerably more work on their plates than everyone else and are constantly burning the midnight oil, you might have a toxic work culture. Make sure everyone’s workloads are similar.

If your company has a toxic work culture, you need to take proactive steps to change it right away. The last thing you want is to endure the nonstop wave of bad news Uber is currently facing.

Make your company a better place to work and employees will be psyched to head into the office every day. Once you’ve established a great culture, hire for culture fit to keep the good times rolling.




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