11 Ways a Nightmare Work Culture Sucks the Life out of Employees

4 min read
Jan 6, 2016

11_Ways_a_Nightmare_Work_Culture_Sucks_the_Life_Out_of_Employees_1We've all been there before, heard stories from friends, or seen it on TV — nightmare organizational cultures exist everywhere. Despite having great colleagues, working in a toxic culture is energy draining, and you eventually lose any ounce of engagement.

This is worrisome since our research found that an organization's culture is the number one factor that's related to employee happiness. So in laymen's terms: good culture equals happy employees. Here are 11 ways a terrible work culture can deplete employee engagement:

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1. Employees take cutthroat competitions too literally

Sure, it's good practice to instill friendly competition here and there. But when competition gets cutthroat, you run the risk of employees sabotaging each other just to end up on top. And this is also bad news for your bottom line — people are more worried about ways to become number one rather than putting in quality work.


2. Employees become numb

11_Ways_a_Nightmare_Work_Culture_Sucks_the_Life_Out_of_Employees_1SOURCE: giphy.com

Ever had a boss tell you your work doesn't matter and to do it just to get it done? I have in the past, and it made me feel like a Cyberman (see Doctor Who reference here). A toxic work culture can make employees lose passion for their work and become numb to their daily tasks.


3. A redundant routine makes them feel trapped

Because they're stuck doing the same routine day in and day out, employees feel like they're trapped. Hamster on a wheel, anyone? There's no room for growth, no forward momentum — and even worse, they start to lose their self-worth because they've been told their work doesn't matter.


4. Lack of voice equals lack of self-worth

SOURCE: giphy.com

Back to the idea of self-worth. When employees aren't given the chance to provide feedback to their managers or don't receive any recognition from anyone, they feel like they're not an important part of the organization.


5.  Cross-departmental friction breeds animosity

When two departments think they are above one another, you can bet there's going to be a rift in the workplace universe. They'll continue to butt heads because each department will have their own set of ways and ideas of doing things. And of course, they think they're both right.


6. Animosity is draining

11_Ways_a_Nightmare_Work_Culture_Sucks_the_Life_Out_of_Employees_4SOURCE: giphy.com

Who wants to spend eight hours of their day with an elevated blood pressure? That's what it's like when teams are constantly working against each other. It's frustrating, to say the least. At the end of the day, employees feel completely drained of energy.


7. Lack of organization creates everyday fire drills

A company that lacks any direction or focus creates fire drills every day. Since there are no deadline for projects or other departments are making decisions without considering how they'll affect the other teams, employees are constantly sent scrambling to get things done. Again, energy draining.


8. Lack of communication is like beating a dead horse

11_Ways_a_Nightmare_Work_Culture_Sucks_the_Life_Out_of_Employees_3SOURCE: giphy.com

Do we have an ETA for that spreadsheet? Crickets. Bumping up this email. Crickets. The deadline for this project is due in a few hours, when can we expect the spreadsheet? CRICKETS.

No one wants to wait on the edge of their seat for you to respond. Lack of communication is extremely frustrating for employees on all levels.


9. Forced recognition is worse than no recognition

Employee recognition only works when it's authentic and genuine. When you're forcing recognition, it's as if you're belittling employees. Enough said.


10. Employees can see through thoughtless recognition

11_Ways_a_Nightmare_Work_Culture_Sucks_the_Life_Out_of_Employees_5SOURCE: pandawhale.com

The best quote I've ever heard a former coworker say after receiving a candy bar for her efforts was, "A candy bar? This isn't going to help me pay rent." Of course, it didn't help that we were all incredibly underpaid.

But the point was that employees don't want candy bars, trophies, or certificates when they don't mean anything. It just makes people feel worthless because the organization didn't put any meaningful thought into the reward.


11. Toxic cultures ruin home lives

After an employee has spent all day at work being angry and frustrated, it's difficult for them to leave all those emotions at the office. They're going to bring it home with them and vent to their loved ones or just be in a perpetual bad mood. This can really take a toll on an employee's personal life outside of the workplace.


When your organization starts becoming a revolving door, there's one thing you need to start taking a look at — your company culture. And keep in mind that making changes is also a tricky ordeal that requires deliberate action. So take this moment to review your company's values and what TINYchanges you can start making today to improve employee engagement and morale.





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