Six Telltale Signs of an Unhealthy Organizational Culture

Posted by Kim Hill on November 24th, 2022

What is organizational culture?

An organization's culture defines the proper way to behave within the organization. This culture consists of shared beliefs and values established by leaders and then communicated and reinforced through various methods, ultimately shaping employee perceptions, behaviors, and understanding. Organizational culture sets the context for everything an enterprise does. Because industries and situations vary significantly, there is no one-size-fits-all culture template that meets the needs of all organizations.

Organizational culture is the organization's personality.

Does this mean that there is a good culture and a bad one? Well, the simple answer is yes. However, the answer is more complicated than a simple "Yes."

To answer this question, we need to look at some telltale signs of an unhealthy culture.

Six Telltale Signs of an unhealthy organizational culture

1. Absence of a List of Values
Unhealthy organizations do not adopt a list of values. Values help organizations prioritize what's important to them. They provide a compass for both management and employees to decide which direction to go during decision-making or conflict. Without a list of values, the organization misses focus. Sometimes organizations have a values list. However, they do not use it. Therefore, whether the organization does not have a values list or has one that they do not use, the outcome is the same: missing focus.

2. Spread of Gossip
Gossip and rumors are not a sign of a healthy organization. The presence of gossip means the absence of transparent, open communication.

3. High Turnover Rate
A high turnover rate is usually attributed to an unhealthy organizational culture. Employees leave when the culture suffers, and the organization develops a bad reputation and becomes known for repelling talent.

4. Talented people giving an average performance
When talented employees have average performance, it is something that needs investigation. Here comes another beep. This time it was signaling poor organizational culture.

5. Dominating Poor Management Style
The communication of order without allowing any discussion from the employees is a sign of poor management style. When employees are reluctant to express their thoughts and opinions to management, it shows a lack of leadership skills. Managers adopting a one-way leadership style lead to employees feeling disrespected and not appreciated—a sure telltale sign of an unhealthy organizational culture.

6. Competing Employees
Employees who refuse to share critical information lead to low teamwork levels, as they compete together unfavorably. When employees create silos and come to work only to serve their sole interests, competing highly to protect their positions, it means the culture is not healthy at all.

1Kellie Wong , Achievers, April 9, 2021. Accessed 20 July 2021, https://www.achievers.com/blog/organizational-culture-definition/
26Q Blog, Accessed 20 August 2021, https://inside.6q.io/10-warning-signs-negative-corporate-culture/ Kate Heinz, Builtin, May 24, 2021, Accessed 20 August 2021, https://builtin.com/company-culture/bad-company- culture Mary Kate Morrow , December 23, 2020, Accessed 20 August 2021, https://altametrics.com/en/company-culture/bad-company-culture-examples.html

For more about this topic, download our latest book "An Adventurous Tale of Culture and Diversity" for FREE:

E-Book: An Adventurous Tale of Culture and Diversity

Like it? Share it!


Kim Hill

About the Author

Kim Hill
Joined: March 25th, 2020
Articles Posted: 28

More by this author