What to Do If Your Company Culture Stinks


You may have heard the saying, “The fish rots from the head down.” Simply put, this refers to a failure of leadership within in an organization. For instance, you may be in an organization where the company culture stinks if management does not have a clearly defined course, the environment is toxic and communication is mostly negative. If you do not have influence over the company culture, what can you do?

Avoid the Negative

  1. Don’t gossip. Disengage from gossip gracefully by mentioning that big deadline, and politely move on. Gossip comes back to hurt you later.
  2. Don’t burn your bridges. Don’t ignore the signs of a terrible company culture and hope things will improve. This can lead to the day when you can’t tolerate it anymore and quit in a huff. The danger is creating a “career crater” that’s difficult to overcome.

Manage Your Emotions

  1. Detach emotionally from highly charged events. If work conversations become heated, don’t add fuel to the fire. Take a few deep breaths. Politely promise to get back to your boss quickly, and remove yourself from antagonistic conversations.
  2. Avoid making assumptions. Your boss doesn’t respond timely to your emails requesting support? It is tempting to assume your boss has it in for you. The truth is we tend to fill in missing information with the worst possible case. Instead, seek to understand before you fill in those blanks.

Seek the Positive

  1. Always do your best. Even when your boss or co-workers are unreasonable, unappreciative or downright rude, you still need to do your best — for your sake, not theirs. Continue building successes and documenting accomplishments in case you need to implement an exit strategy.
  2. Find objective support. Find a safe place to vent. Get outside support through a trusted mentor or career coach. He or she can help you decide if it is time to move on and how to navigate a smart career transition.

One of my favorite bosses once said to me, “You simply have to out-mature them.” This means remaining calm, professional and respectful, no matter what. If you do decide to move on, your behavior will be beyond reproach. You may be able to salvage some positive relationships to boost your career moving forward and can use the tell-tale signs of poor culture to make a better choice next time.