How Toxic Cultures Destroy Businesses

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How Toxic Cultures Destroy Businesses

The Idea: Henry Ford once quipped, “Why is it that I always get the whole person when what I really want is a pair of hands?”  Of course, most people today recognize that this would be a detrimental mindset for any company, but it does reveal an important challenge: the fate of a business is determined by its people.  Businesses don’t hire hands; businesses hire people, with both baggage and brilliance.  When corporate cultures become toxic, everyone is infected. The price of workplace incivility is huge.  It is bad for business, destroys retention and kills productivity.

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article called The Price of Incivility, managers at Fortune 1000 firms spend the equivalent of seven weeks a year dealing with the aftermath of incivility.  The most frequently cited forms of incivility include: judgmental viewpoints, indifference to employees’ opinions, degradation, and deception.

  • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort.
  • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work.
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident.
  • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender.
  • 66% said that their performance declined.
  • 78% said that their commitment to the organization declined

In one fell swoop, production, commitment, energy and effort are lost because of incivility.  Furthermore, incivility hinders creativity.  Says HBR, participants in experiments who are treated rudely were 30% less creative than others, while also producing 25% fewer ideas.  The research showed that the participant’s ideas were unoriginal.  Cultures that encourage criticism, rude behavior or emotionally unsafe zones squelch the creation process and nullify team bonding. We all need to feel liberated from fear of judgment or punishment to thrive.

Incivility creates self-doubt, and self-doubt creates a crisis in confidence and an inability to trust the organization.

Simply put, incivility, even in small or random doses, destroys a company because it destroys its people.

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