Toxic Cultures: Where Does the Buck Stop?

It’s been a long couple of weeks for New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie. With numerous political scandals coming to light and the Governor continuing to insist that he knew nothing of the alleged strong-arming of local politicians with opposing views, one must wonder- how do such cultures devolve to the point where staff members feel that it is acceptable to behave in such ways.

When scandals erupt, once publicly confident leaders who seem to have complete control of their organizations suddenly claim ignorance and rush to divert attention away from themselves. This happens more commonly than one might expect.

If unethical organizational behavior is known to leaders and tolerated, for whatever reason, the clear message to employees is that it is okay to behave in such ways. If the behavior occurs unbeknownst to the leader than the leader is not doing an effective job of supervising the people that work for him. Either way, the leader is at the root of the culture issue.

Four Signs Your Culture May be Toxic-

  1. Employees feel they can behave in unethical or unprofessional ways with little or no repercussion from their leadership.
  2. Leaders hold themselves to a different standard than they hold their people.
  3. When the going gets rough, leaders quickly look to blame someone or something else for the mishap rather than take responsibility.
  4. Employees are fearful that they cannot speak up in fear of retribution from leadership.

The buck really does stop with the leaders. And, they must intentionally cultivate employees’ beliefs about acceptable and unacceptable behaviors and the guidelines for behavior in the organization. With so many stakeholders looking more closely at the brands and companies they engage with these days, it pays to create an organizational dynamic where team members know exactly what’s expected of them. Otherwise, toxic cultures will kill themselves.