Toxic company cultures are not easy to spot from the outside. The most well-spoken, soothing manager is sent to give you a tour of the business. They guide you carefully through the building, steering clear of any problem areas. Instead of introducing you to the vicious and carnivorous members of the team who feed off the weak like Jurassic World’s Velociraptors, they introduce you to the calmer humans or herbivores. This, you think, will be such a great place to work!
You begin to work. A week passes, and you notice that all is not well. Your coworkers snap and hiss at each other. Management seems to have the tact and business skills of a T-Rex. What do you do when you realize you're working at a Jurassic World where the dinosaurs have escaped into the park?
A Jurassic workplace is not ideal. Why? The madness, conflict, and events that take place at a toxic work environment create a culture of high stress and low productivity.
The High Turnover Problem
Jobs should provide an atmosphere that will allow employees to improve their skills, learn from their peers and utilize their time in a manner that will lead to good references. A Jurassic work environment has the danger of failing on all fronts.
To begin with, the employee turnover rate at companies with a weak and hazardous culture tends to be very high. Companies with a weak culture have turnover rates 34.5% higher than ones with a strong culture. What does that mean?
As a new member of the company, you will have:
Less time to learn before you're expected to run at full speed.
Few experienced employees to learn from.
And once you become more efficient, you might not have the opportunity to explore beyond the bare minimum of your job description. After all, you’ll no doubt need to compensate for your company being understaffed or your coworkers undertrained.
Actions To Take: Assume all of the knowledgeable employees are preparing to flee the raptor infested company. Ask them questions about the job and shadow them while you can. Spend some time outside of work developing skills. Delegate some of your extra time to exploring new strategies, tactics, and concepts that you can use to increase productivity and your understanding of the industry as a whole. All of this will help you find a new opportunity if and when necessary.
The Pit of the Unproductivity
Offices modeled after Jurassic World are not productive. The main barrier against a productive office is the constant fog of disengagement that spreads through the office. Many companies in the United States face that struggle, even ones that are not infested with carnivorous dinosaurs. In a national study, Ohio University found that 29% of employees surveyed were not fully engaged at work. As an employee at an office with a bad company culture, you really need to monitor how engaged you are.
The bad news is that you will be fighting an uphill battle if things are already not going well. According to Why Company Culture Matters, happy employees tend to be 31% more productive and unhappy employees tend to be 10% less productive. It’s hard to be happy in a bad company culture.
Actions To Take: Your best bet is to arrange your time and goals in a manner to increase personal happiness. Start by pursuing friendly relationships at the office. The more work-friends you have, the happier you will be at work. Set your own goals to achieve. Tie all work tasks to a long-term career goal. Monitor what makes you the unhappiest about the office and work with your managers to fix it or set up goals to work around the issue.
Identifying the Bad Dinosaurs
Not everyone will be unhappy. Some raptor-like individuals are at their best when they are granted free reign to do poor work, run the office politics, and bring everyone else down. Newcomers to this culture should keep an eye out for these corporate bullies.
An ideal way to problem dinosaurs is to ask one or two of your more quiet co-workers who they’ve identified as individuals to steer clear of. By consulting your co-workers, you might be able to identify who is uncooperative, unfriendly, or unproductive.
Actions To Take: Once a problem dinosaur is identified, you should steer clear of them and consider reporting any concerning behavior to human resources. Create strong ties with friendly coworkers to not only cooperate with on projects, but also to boost your mood and establish a team within a team.
Company culture matters. If you've been blindsided by bad company culture, you probably won’t be able to flee the raptor infested cubicles right away. In order to earn a good reference, gain new skills, or work your way into management (if that is your goal), you will need to push past all of the fallout you may experience due to the environment. And with proper preparation, you can escape the fog of despair and end up running the park.
Picture courtesy of Peter Rivera.