The Positive Energy Workplace

The Positive Energy Workplace: 7 Symptoms of a Toxic Company Culture (Part 1)

At Active Choices, Inc., we've been in the business of helping organizations cultivate Positive Energy Workplaces for more than two decades, and during that time we’ve worked with many high-performing teams and organizational partners and gathered an immense amount of insights along the way. 

As we continue to reach more companies and expand our Positive Energy Workplace Initiative™ (PEW-i), we've noticed some common themes and symptoms that can help you understand where your organization stands on the positive energy spectrum and identify the support you may need. 

To get things rolling, we’re going to start by sharing indicators that suggest your company is NOT currently a Positive Energy Workplace.

Consider these as warning signs that you might be in (or headed for without even realizing it) what we call "triage mode." 

(But don't worry, in our next blog post, we'll dive into the indicators of a Positive Energy Workplace and share how you can transition to a state of growth and optimization.)

So, without further ado, here are 7 red flags to watch out for:

  1. Losing top talent: If your best people, especially those in crucial roles like Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Talent, HR, or Design, are leaving and you don't know why, it's a clear signal something could be amiss with your company culture. Losing top talent indicates that they may have lost hope in their ability to make a difference within your company, and blaming burnout, the pandemic, or hybrid work arrangements, might not be the REAL reasons behind their departure.

  2. Low psychological safety: When your employees are hesitant to speak openly about their challenges, seek support, or provide direct feedback, it's a sign of low psychological safety. In a Positive Energy Workplace, conversations about struggles, feedback, and even disagreements are essential for fostering top performance and creativity. If your company culture is dominated by cautiousness, complaining, lack of quality performance, cover-your-back behavior, and secrecy, you've got some work to do.

  3. Exhausting meetings: Do your employees dread meetings? If your meetings are unproductive, chaotic, and draining, it's a clear indication that something is amiss. When people show up late, unprepared, multitask, or veer off-topic, it hampers collaboration and wastes valuable time. Not having an agenda or inviting unnecessary attendees can further contribute to the frustration. #ThisMeetingCouldHaveBeenAnEmail

  4. Workforce exodus without notice: Losing talented individuals without any prior warning or understanding of their dissatisfaction can be very disruptive, especially in industries reliant on contingent workers. If employees quit suddenly, without giving you any insight into their reasons or engaging in crucial conversations, it's a serious concern. Even worse, if they remain but exhibit unhappiness, it can have a detrimental effect on client relationships.

  5. Glassdoor and company ratings: Negative ratings on platforms like Glassdoor that reflect poorly on your company's culture and leadership should not be taken lightly. If employees bring these ratings to your attention, expressing their concerns and suggesting actions to address them, it's essential to take their feedback seriously. Ignoring such feedback demonstrates a lack of commitment to creating a positive workplace environment.

  6. Undervaluing culture and good leadership: If you or your leadership team don't prioritize culture, good leadership, or creating a healthy workplace, it sends a message to the entire organization. Some leaders hold the view that they only pay employees to work, not to focus on culture or self-care. Others may claim to care but fail to actively participate in relevant programs or meetings. Prioritizing everything but culture and real conversation can hinder progress and growth for your company (and for you as a leader, too!).

  7. Feeling stuck as a leader: If you, as a leader, find yourself going through the motions, experiencing a sense of flatness, and questioning if there's more to work than what meets the eye, it's a personal indicator that something needs to change. The exhaustion and busyness of leadership can take a toll, but putting on a brave face while feeling overwhelmed won't lead to sustainable success.

These symptoms are just a few examples of what we've observed while working with our clients or speaking with potential clients. Sometimes, an organization exhibits all of these indicators, while in other cases, it's just a couple. 

Regardless, these warning signs can have a significant impact on performance, retention, creativity, and bottom-line metrics.

The good news is that all these symptoms are addressable if you and your leadership team genuinely desire to create positive change. 

If your organization is currently experiencing three or more of these indicators, you're likely in "triage mode" and in need of a comprehensive reset. For those with fewer symptoms, a quick reset followed by a focus on developing the necessary skills, principles, and ways of working can help unravel these challenges with care.

In our Part 2, we explore the flip side and reveal the indicators that your company IS a Positive Energy Workplace. We'll also share insights and strategies for achieving growth and optimization. 

Remember, creating a Positive Energy Workplace is not just a nice-to-have; it's a key driver of success in today's dynamic business landscape. Don't let these indicators go unnoticed. Take action, invest in your culture, and empower your team to thrive. 



Is Your Organization Ready to Become a Certified Positive Energy Workplace?

Join the Positive Energy Workplace Initiative to tap into the framework and expertise your organization needs to develop and support real culture change.

Contact us today to learn more about the IEP Method® and how to unlock your company’s — and your own — best leadership, culture, and creativity.

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