Written By Chad Kearns

Published on September 12, 2023

If you’ve found yourself in a leadership role before, you’ve experienced how culture impacts your team, for better or for worse. 

When a team’s culture is right, everything seems to run on all cylinders. People show up engaged and ready to work. Working relationships are strong and built on a foundation of trust. Talented team members stick around for the long haul. innovation and delivery satisfy your customers and keep them coming back for more. Your team or organization delivers on its mission and meets or exceeds goals.

The corporate environment and many people’s relationship with work would look a whole lot different if every organization’s culture looked and felt like what’s described above. 

Unfortunately, unhealthy organizational culture is more common than it should be.  

Most people aren’t engaged in their work and much of that detachment comes down to a misalignment in organizational culture. And when there is an organizational culture problem, organizational ownership, investors, team members, and customers all suffer the impact of those pain points.

So what are the most common pain points that signify an unhealthy organizational culture? 

Let’s take a look. 

Strained Working Relationships

People are at the core of organizational culture and the relationships they hold with those they work closely with highly impact organizational norms. Ongoing disputes. Gossiping. Lack of trust to follow through on commitments. Assuming malintent. 

The long-term presence of strained working relationships signifies an unhealthy organizational culture. As the presence of long-term strained relationships continues, the negative impact on the organization grows. 

High Team Member Disengagement

When a team member within your organization doesn’t seem to be bought in, they don’t seem to care about their work, and they don’t invest in important relationships around them, it’s likely they’re disengaged with their work. 

It’s not as uncommon as you might think. That’s a bummer! Folks spend too much of their lives working to be unengaged. 

How do unengaged team members bring themselves to work? Oftentimes, poorly. 

They are apathetic to the team’s mission or goals. They are not as productive or effective as engaged team members, don’t push themselves to grow and develop, have higher absenteeism, and are less innovative. Think retaining unengaged team members has a negative impact on your culture and organization as a whole? You bet. 

High Team Member Turnover

Want to know if you have a healthy organizational culture or not? Monitor team member tenure and turnover. Organizations with unhealthy cultures turnover team members more often than organizations with healthy cultures. 

Team member turnover is expensive and disruptive. It’s a major indicator of larger cultural issues within an organization. 

Now is all team member turnover bad? Not at all. Taking corrective action on underperforming team members actually builds healthy organizational culture. But if your high potential, high-impact team members are leaving your organization more frequently than you’d like to see, it’s often times an indicator of poor organizational culture. 

Poor Customer Satisfaction

Want to know if you have a healthy organizational culture? It’s likely your customers will give you some valuable insight. 

Your customers may not be able to speak directly to your organization’s culture, but they can speak directly to the value your organization provides. 

Organizations with unhealthy cultures are less innovative and hold lower customer satisfaction ratings and retention metrics compared to organizations with healthy cultures. 

Monitor customer satisfaction, loyalty, retention, and referral business. As those metrics soar or diminish, it’s likely that your organization’s culture falls in-line with those numbers.  

Not Delivering on the Organization’s Mission and Goals 

Organizations with unhealthy cultures struggle to deliver on their mission and goals. 

This pain point is the outcome when our previous pain points are present. It becomes very hard to deliver on a mission and meet or exceed organizational goals when working relationships are poor, turnover of high-impact team members is high, team member engagement is low, and customers are unsatisfied. 

When organizations struggle to deliver on their mission and meet their goals, it often boils down to a culture problem. The acceptable behaviors and norms of the organization are misaligned with what’s required to deliver on the mission of the organization. 

Why Healthy Culture Fuels Strong Organizations 

More often than not, healthy organizational culture is the difference between thriving and floundering organizations. 

When an organization fosters a healthy culture, team member engagement builds and workforces show up excited to deliver on the organization’s mission. 

Working relationships thrive.

High-potential and high-impact team members stick around. 

Engagement soars. 

Customer loyalty is earned. 

And most importantly, organizations deliver on their mission and goals. 

Changing Unhealthy Organizational Culture

Organizational culture change is hard but the impact of reshaping an organization’s culture is immense. 

The first step in overcoming an unhealthy organizational culture is acknowledging that change is needed and that intentionally focusing on organizational culture has the ability to drive immense positive change within your organization. Unfortunately, many executive leaders struggle to acknowledge change is needed, and even fewer pinpoint culture as the catalyst to drive meaningful change. 

Secondly, it’s important to collect baseline organizational culture data. The Fired Up! Culture Annual Culture Index is a tool used by organizations across North America to collect important feedback about how their team members are feeling about their organization’s culture.

From there, it’s all about crafting a plan and diligently working through the change management process to drive impactful organizational culture change. Driving that change is much easier said than done, but the work to undergo this change, when managed well, can transform teams that once struggled, into thriving organizations that regularly deliver on their mission and goals.