Don’t Let the Organization’s Toxic Culture Infect Your Team

By Harvard Business Review
October 7, 2019

You can’t single-handedly change the culture of your entire organization, but you can create a resonant microculture on your team.

Sometimes an organization’s rules overshadow the values and norms of the other cultures we belong to. This isn’t necessarily bad, unless the organization we belong to has a toxic culture.

Such cultures aren’t good for us or for our organizations.

You can’t single-handedly change the culture of your entire organization, but you can create a resonant microculture on your team. Here’s how:

START WITH YOURSELF: Toxic cultures sap our energy and resilience. Which of your values have fallen by the wayside? How’s your health? When was the last time you thought seriously about your future? Reflection of this nature, particularly with others, will result in clarity about the kind of climate and environment you need at work.

REPAIR RELATIONSHIPS: Make a plan to fix work relationships that have soured or are emotionally draining. Take responsibility for your attitude and actions, and work through the problems with your colleagues. One way to begin the conversation is to talk about what you’ve been reflecting on, what you want to change, what you hope for at work. Your honesty and vulnerability can set the stage for a productive exchange.

FORM A COALITION: Plan a series of meetings where people can discuss what they want and need at work. Take deliberate steps to articulate shared values and a code of conduct. Remember, though, that the pressure of your broader company culture is still very real. So, while you hold yourselves accountable for building your resonant microculture, you’ll also need to be patient, supportive and ready to forgive yourself and others.

Copyright 2018 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.


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