More and more I hear of clients that dread Monday mornings, that feel pressurised and bullied. What they describe is not a work hard environment, or a competitive industry but a downright sick office.
Some of these clients have worked there for years and the culture has gradually slipped into a bad place without anyone noticing, and others a toxic personality has made it so.
The big problem is that often by the time you notice it is too late. You already feel trapped or tarnished and you have no motivation to move.
So what are the early warning signs to look out for? Here are my top 6
Staying late is a badge of honour.
It may seem like a good thing to value commitment and great to end the day with a sense of completion, but that should not be the norm. If suddenly it becomes expected that you work beyond your hours regularly then this is a flag that should not be ignored, especially if you feel pressured to comply even when you have no deadlines looming.
Measuring productivity in this manner is never healthy and a red flag you should not ignore.
Comparison Culture becomes normal.
Healthy competition is great, it keeps you motivated through the dull stuff. It can also build good team spirit, but when there is constant comparison between teammates that can have the opposite effect.
This kind of culture shift is very subtle too. It begins with simple comments, which are usually about personality disguised as performance and then escalates into labels. Also constant highlighting of minor errors and the like quickly make casual criticism ok. Then the culture becomes one of comparison and Criticism which is not healthy at all.
You sweat the small stuff.
Again micromanaging can begin very slowly, with just keeping an eye on ….. and then before you know it every second must be accounted for. Constant improvement is great, but it happens better when each employee has some responsibility for their own work and is not in constant fear of having to justify things that are just not material.
The IT crowd no longer means those that look after your computers.
If you notice very quickly that there seems to be an emergence of an in crowd and others, then that is a sure-fire sign there is a toxic personality at play somewhere. It will not be long before this office resembles the school playground with the IT crowd protecting their own.
No one can work in these conditions and management need to keep the field even. If they don’t then it is time to make your exit plan, as until the toxic one goes this will just keep growing.
Mistakes become about people not solutions.
Following on, you don’t always need an IT crowd to make micro errors become a thing of division. Simply fearing imperfection, which often happens if a manager has not had management training, can cause a blame culture. If the question is who made this typo, rather than what is the impact of the typo and how do we fix it, then it could well be a slippery slope into a blame culture.
Ideas become a big responsibility.
A healthy office thrives on innovation and ideas. So if you get an idea and after thinking it through think it is a good one, you should be eager to share it. If you are not, then it may be your office is beginning to get sick. To grow we need to learn, to learn we need to make mistakes. Most solutions are born of trial and error so if you get scared to make suggestions it is not a healthy environment.
What do you do if you find it slipping?
First send out an SOS, i.e. stand back, observe and steer. Then make yourself a plan to leave this sick office behind.
If you need any help then download my template here……
or book a one to one and we can get some clarity as to what you can do next.