The best bosses put employees at ease, diffuse tension between team members, inspire others to want to do better, and recognize and appreciate a job well done. On the other side of the coin are those leaders (and we all know them) who, through avoidable mistakes and a general lack of consideration, slowly chip away at their company’s culture and spew toxicity into the office environment.
A solid company culture is key to employee retention. Our own research found that:
40% of employees are less likely to think about a new job because of a positive work culture
- Company events contribute to a 10% higher chance of retention
Company culture is also an important factor in employee productivity. The Department of Economics at the University of Warwick has found:
Happy workers are 12% more productive than the average worker
Unhappy workers are 10% less productive
These numbers illustrate the significance of worker satisfaction and should encourage struggling leaders to examine their company culture — an aspect of a business that is often lacking. Here are the top 10 things to avoid doing if you want to keep the culture at your company cool, calm, and cohesive, thereby retaining your employees and productivity.
1. Pulling the money card
Oftentimes, companies with a lot of capital will invest heavily in fancy perks while ignoring some of what really makes an employee stick around, such as a united vision for growth and meaningful work. Bosses may offer monetary incentives for extended work hours and greater commitments but ignore their employees’ personal needs. No one wants to be a sellout — your job is to make a work environment that employees will want to be a part of even if they could go and make more money elsewhere.
2. Yes, you’re a boss. No, you shouldn’t be bossy
All employees need direction and guidance from their leaders, but the ultimate goal is to help them become self-sufficient and confident in their ability to innovate. If you rule your employees with an iron fist, requiring them to run everything by you with no breathing room, they will most likely leave for a job that offers more autonomy and opportunity to exercise their creative and independent spirits.
3. Putting yourself on the other side of the continental divide
Do you expect your employees to act in accordance with company values, be willing to reevaluate their work, and participate in important training exercises? If such is the case, leadership should be doing all of that and more. You should be on your employees’ side, willing and able to do what you require of someone else. A leader should be the one most invested in company initiatives, even those that may seem basic or less significant.
4. Allowing stress to bubble over
A short-tempered, high-strung boss can only lead to one thing: a stressed-out team. And when the team is not happy, the company culture turns dreary, productivity decreases, and employees leave for greener pastures. When an employee starts to vent to you, instead of letting the anxiety build, take the time necessary to listen and diffuse the situation.
5. One bad apple ruins the bunch
In order for a company to have an actual “culture,” there needs to be commonalities between employees. This doesn’t mean that they all need to look or act the same, or even have similar interests (diversity is extremely important to a productive workforce), but there must be a general sense that people get along and respect each other.
Even a single bad employee, one who perhaps gossips incessantly, slacks off, or worse (embezzlement and selling trade secrets are things that really do happen) can spoil the atmosphere for everyone. Take the time to hire the right people. Doing so will make sure that not only your customers are properly cared for, but that your entire team will be more comfortable and settled.
6. Treating employees like minions
Your team is just as valuable to your business as your customers are, and they need to be treated as such. Relating to employees like a herd of cattle is hardly going to help them to capitalize on their strengths.
People should be recognized as individuals and appreciated for their accomplishments. An easy way to recognize your employees is through small gifts: treat them to a night at the movies, offer a gift certificate for a popular restaurant, or even simply mention those who have gone above and beyond their job description in the weekly team meeting. The more you help your staff grow towards their unique roles, the more loyalty they will feel towards your company or organization.
7. Hoarding your team’s accomplishments
Good leaders lead by example, setting their egos aside and humbly recognizing all of the people that contribute to a successful business. They know how to give credit where credit is due, sharing in the joy of accomplishments with their employees and acknowledging their important contributions.
Teams need willful and positive communication from their leaders, and they need to know they are on the right track and that they are valued. Without this type of communication, employees often feel confused about where they stand with leadership and are more likely to leave for a position that offers more clarity.
8. Creating an in-house war
Yes, your company is competing with similar companies for business and clout, but that is where competition should come to a halt. As a leader, you should encourage each individual to act upon their strengths, not to simply outdo the guy in the office next door. Within a company, everyone should feel part of the team, one that encourages each of its members to do their best.
Don’t confuse motivation with competition, however. It is a positive sign that your employees want to do their best, to be the best, but when it comes at the expense of the team, it has gone too far.
9. Assuming bosses know best
Employees are often the ones most familiar with the dregs of your company’s operation. Their perspective is almost always valuable and should be heard even when it is not. Learn to listen and to take others seriously. Who knows, maybe they have the secret to your next big break?
10. Tipping the work-life scale too far
One of your employees has a sick baby? A nephew’s graduation? A parent undergoing surgery? If your policy is “be here or else,” you may be in the game for some short-lived tenures. Of course, frequent and inexcusable absence or lateness is never OK, but lacking in compassion for your employees’ personal lives definitely doesn’t elicit continued loyalty. Take interest in the individuals that make up your team and show them that they matter to you as people, not just workers.
Being a good leader is a balance between constantly analyzing your current behavior and deciding which new tactics will best serve your employees. Oftentimes, leaders focus on what they can do to improve company culture without first analyzing current behavior for any wrongdoings. By following these 10 tips of what not to do, you can avoid making any of the key mistakes that so often send employees looking for greener pastures.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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