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5 Great Ways to Create A Toxic Culture for Your Team

Every now and then, I run across something that teaches or reminds me of the things most important in management.  This article was written by a personal friend and serious human resource manager named Aaron Butler.  You can see the original article here .

Five Great Ways to Create a Toxic Culture For Your Team!

Aaron Butler, PHR, CDR

Aaron Butler, PHR, CDR

Disclaimer: This post is written as satire! Please take what knowledge you can from it and take the rest with a grain of salt!

People often come to me and ask “Aaron, I am really looking for some great ideas on how to stifle productivity on my team and hopefully, given time, run them all out the door! Any ideas?” Fortunately for them I have seen companies come up with some obvious ways to achieve this goal. Below are just five ways to create a toxic company culture but there a definitely many more!

#5) Make sure there are no metrics or benchmarks for tracking success in their roles.

I previously worked for a company where, before opening a new position, the Recruiters would always call the hiring managers for a brief kick-off call to make sure they had the specific information needed to successfully recruit on the role. One of the questions we would ask was “How will you measure success in this role?” To my surprise, after making this call hundreds of times, not one hiring manager ever provided any detail as to how they would measure an employees success in the position. Even more astounding was that my question was often met with another question……”what do you mean?” As you may have anticipated the retention rate within this company was poor. Exit interviews would often reveal that people didn’t know what they should be doing to make it to the next level and they often didn’t find out their performance was considered sub-par until it was time for their annual performance review.

If you would like to create a toxic culture for your team be sure that their performance is measured completely subjectively and that there are no objective metrics upon which to evaluate their success! This strategy is a real winner!

4) Too many metrics! Death by data!

On the reciprocal from #5 you can also use metrics to measure EVERYTHING! Different companies, different teams within the same company, etc. can sometimes crush their teammates under the weight of extreme performance measurement data! Having 4-5 metrics by which performance is measured sometimes just isn’t enough; to really make your team miserable you will need to go the extra mile and evaluate them based upon tons of metrics, many of which they can not control from their position! If you want the team to be happy then make sure all their KPIs are under their control or at least within their sphere of ability to influence……but if you are excited about creating a toxic culture then you now know what to do!

3) Make success a moving target!

Certainly goals are always changing and, in this world of instant messaging and global transactions being conducted at the speed of light, everyone needs to be nimble. This being said, in a healthy corporate culture, there should always be at least a few benchmarks that are consistent and well communicated by leadership to the team. I have had the opportunity to work on some great recruiting teams (not satire) and have felt the amazing sense of satisfaction of never having the goals/metrics by which we were evaluated (and by which our bonuses were paid out) stay the same for more than one or maybe two quarters at best! In one instance the benchmarks were changed and then applied to our bonuses retroactively!

If you want to confuse the heck out of your team be sure to keep that target moving! For an added punch you can make it impact their compensation!

2) Sweat the small stuff!

My wife is in management and amazing at what she does (also not satire). Like all Managers she has some A players, some B players, and so on. One night she came home and began telling me about something one of her A players does that drives her nuts; the action this A player was taking was very small indeed and so I quipped to my wife “You should fire her!” My wife said “huh?” to which I replied “yeah, you should fire her….or at least write her up!” Once my wife figured out I was joking we got into an excellent conversation about corporate culture. She shared with me that she hadn’t told the team member the behavior bothered her so of course we both agreed she should share her feelings with that person ASAP.

There are many companies, or sometimes just managers within companies, that love to sweat the small stuff. They will take a tiny infraction on the part of a team member and blow it completely out of proportion! Often they don’t even let that team member know it is an issue until they are receiving some sort of reprimand or write-up. This technique is a sure fire way to increase your attrition rate! Keep it up!

And the #1 way to create a toxic culture is………….

1) Hire talented people and don’t listen to them!

I have definitely learned in my career that money isn’t everything. Previously I worked for a company where the team members were extremely well paid and had excellent benefits; I was often astounded by the salaries they earned knowing full well that others in similar jobs at competitors made 20-30% less than what these team members were earning. Either way this was one of the most toxic cultures I have ever seen and people could not wait to get out! Why? Because these people were super talented and wanted to use their skills, grow their skills and be creative! Instead they operated in a culture of complete control and domination. The head of the company would go into a meeting, briefly listen to their ideas, cut them off mid-sentence, say “Ok, here is what we are going to do” and then proceed to dictate to them exactly how they would do their jobs. If that wasn’t enough this person would also throw a few verbal jabs at all of them to make sure they knew he was smarter.

The great thing about these strategies is that you can use just one or you can mix and match them like a cafeteria plan! And these aren’t the only strategies….these are simply a few of the gems! Be sure to put your heads together with other leaders and you will certainly be able to create some fun and innovative ways to decrease production and increase attrition rates in no time at all!

Go get em!

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