A Toxic Work Culture Is Forcing High-Performing People to Quit

A Toxic Work Culture Is Forcing High-Performing People to Quit

  • Originally Published in LinkedIn on June 25, 2019

Tim DenningViral Blogger | Leader | Sales Professional -Inspiring The World Through Person… See more521 articles Follow

If micro-management thrives and there is no trust in your organization, you are looking down the barrel of a toxic work culture. If you don’t believe me, use one of the many employee engagement products to find out for yourself.

Tell the people in your company that you are going to be surveying them every three months and they can say whatever they want because it’s completely anonymous. After the first survey, watch the comments and feedback pour in. Keep encouraging your people to say what they think.

Toxic work cultures make going to work feel miserable.

In a toxic culture, new ideas can’t thrive, people can’t be honest, bullying unfortunately occurs, leaders are given power that can go to their heads and fuel their egos, and an eerie feeling occurs at your company’s town hall/all hands when leaders ask for questions.

High performers quit toxic work cultures. Every day on platforms such as LinkedIn, high performers are getting messages from recruiters and competitors who are selling the dream that the grass is greener. If your company has a toxic work culture, high performers have nothing to lose by moving on and trying another company.

High performers know their strengths and are also smart enough to realize that if they can perform well in a toxic work culture, they can thrive in a Culture First company that looks after its employees.

If your high performers look disengaged or show little enthusiasm, that is a red flag that your organization is toxic.

Image Credit: MixMag/Lawrence Abbott Illustration

Here is what a toxic work culture looks like from someone who has worked in one:


People can’t make decisions

Basic decisions that can cause customers to leave, can’t be made. A simple refund for a client that never received the service they paid for takes weeks when it should take minutes.

When a decision needs to be made to change a product because customers are leaving by the dozen, a decision can’t be made. It’s easier to make no decision than it is to make a decision that admits things need to change.


Working from home or part-time work is seen as lazy

Management doesn’t allow people to work from home because they want to watch people. Working from home means you’ll be less productive and take advantage of the situation.

The fact you might have a newborn baby at home and don’t want to do the two-hour commute each day so you can work more is ignored.

Then, staff who want to work part-time because they have a side hustle, children, or a second job are prevented from doing so or referred to as “lazy.”

Here’s the thing: part-time work and working from home is not lazy.

Both forms of work allow people to have lives and they will reward you (if you allow them) with loyalty and commitment to their work.

Excluding part-time work or working from home is limiting your talent pool severely because it is such a common way of working. Being chained to a desk in an office does not make you high performing or a profitable asset; being allowed to be flexible and treated like a human does.


Entrepreneurship is frowned upon

Toxic work cultures hate entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs because they are scared to death that they are going to leave and steal their ideas.

Thriving work cultures take people that have experience owning a business and utilize them like their secret weapon. They promote entrepreneurship because they want people to feel as though it is their business and they can make decisions.

Utilize entrepreneurs while you have them, and if they leave, wish them all the best. Entrepreneurs are the reason that businesses are created in the first place — remember that.


“MANAGEMENT vs. US” culture

Leaders are referred to as management and the front line staff are told that the company is cutting costs.

Meanwhile, the leaders are having deliciously catered for meals off silver plates, taking black limos to meetings and spending crazy amounts of money on social media marketing that makes them look good.

Front line staff say things such as “Management really needs to look at problem X.”

In a non-toxic culture, management and staff are one and people are accountable. Sentences like “Management needs to do…” are not relevant because staff can make decisions and the two sides of the business are one.

The less hierarchy, the more people feel included and that produces a thriving, collaborative culture.


The number of hours you work matter

Judging people by when they start work and how late they work is irrelevant. We all know that the number of hours we work has nothing to do with output.

You can be at your desk for 12-hours straight and be doing nothing other than surfing the web and complaining to your pals about the company you work for.

Culture First companies understand that output produces results and that on some days you will be productive, and on other days you may have suffered the loss of a loved one or be feeling unwell. Regardless, all that is taken into account is results.

And here’s the kicker: when the results are not there, leaders take accountability and coach their people out of it or help them get a role they are better suited for.

If leaders are watching the clock, you have a problem.


Preferential treatment

In-between the formal layers of hierarchy, there are these soft spongy bits called “preferential treatment.”

These are people that are given extra privileges for enforcing the leaderships toxic culture and talking behind people’s backs in order to gain something. Instead of being part of the solution, they make the problem bigger and are rewarded for it.

Image Credit: SebastienThibault.com

Talking down to people who have found themselves in the wrong role

People who are under-performing are called all sorts of nasty names and treated unfairly. They are seen as stupid or not good at business.

In thriving cultures, these people are helped, coached and given feedback. Leaders stand up and help them find the right role if it turns out; for example, they applied for sales and don’t really enjoy talking to customers.

People in the wrong roles can be some of the best staff you have in your business if you can be compassionate enough to give them a second chance in a different role.

The appreciation that comes from being helped rather than shamed converts into long-term loyalty that rebuilds careers, and becomes the basis of a thriving culture.


Shaming low performance

If there are punishments for low performance, you have a big problem. 

Shaming people won’t make them perform better; it will make them hate the leadership team and the company even more.

This hatred will then be directed towards your customers and you’ll have more of those “Why are we not making money?” meetings when really it’s your culture that sucks.


A rotating door policy

When people decide to leave or mention they are thinking of leaving, they are talked about as traitors.

Having people leave regularly is normal and acceptable in toxic work environments. There are no exit interviews or questions around why a particular leader has had so many people leave in a short space of time.

Each time, the excuse is “Johnny was crap, so it’s a good thing he is leaving.”

When you scour the company’s staff on LinkedIn, you see that staff don’t last long at the company.


Asking staff to write positive reviews online to cover up the toxicity

Yes, it happens. Toxic cultures can easily be recognized by former staff leaving negative reviews on places such as GlassDoor.

Image Credit: GettyImages.com

In a toxic work culture, business leaders panic and try to cover up the error in their leadership by asking staff to leave fluffy, fake, in-genuine reviews online to cover up the bad ones.

You can’t hide a toxic work culture; you can only fix it by recognizing it and changing how you treat people.


Values are spoken of rarely

They are written on the company website, mentioned at the annual conference, but never talked about in the context of everyday work.

When talking to a client or making a decision, the values are forgotten about.

In a thriving culture, you can’t even get hired unless you can demonstrate the values. The references you provide are asked about values, you are required to provide evidence and you may even be asked to do a case study where the values will be assessed.

At the end of the year when performance reviews are had, profit and revenue is only one small part of the conversation. Leaders focus in on the company values because they know that it’s the glue that holds everything together and ultimately produces revenue.


SOLUTION: It starts at the top

  • Start with trusting people first
  • Earn people’s respect
  • Be compassionate to your people’s circumstances
  • Give your people development opportunities
  • Respect the way people like to get their work done
  • Encourage autonomy of decision-making
  • Let people be themselves (race, religion, sexual preference, gender, background — who cares)

Final thought

Toxic cultures cause share prices to drop and profits to plummet. Instead of looking at spreadsheets and accountants for answers, look at your people. Your people are what cause profits to go up or down.

Identify the problems of your company’s culture, own them, and then become obsessed with asking your people how you can change them. Then, implement the changes.

Fight toxic work cultures by making your company transform into being Culture First. It starts with people.


If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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I Survived a Toxic Office

It’s been nearly 3 years since I left a toxic office environment at large Hong Kong corporation and preparing to start new work after months of interviewing and upskilling.

Looking back at my time there, the office was really questionable given the circumstances I was brought in, the day-to-day challenges, and the way they treated me as I left the offices.

The company had an intense clique mentality. Nearly every department had their own cliques and subgroups and these groups had a tendency of not being inclusive. It was already a challenge getting to work with the more local colleagues but the fact my former managers tolerated or enabled cliques made the work situation unpleasant. These colleagues would go to lunch without me, not even have the decency to ask if I was interested in something out of courtesy, and really disliked speaking English despite being a multinational office. I wound up getting along with the non-local staff and those who are not into office politics as a result.

Their HR (People Team) does not pretend to even care about employee well-being. Whenever, there is an issue related to cliques or unpleasantness, the HR would pretend to schedule a meeting to discuss then not show up without any real reason. Any attempt to address concerns about reduction of job scope would be met with “oh jobs always evolve at the company”. During my last day at the office, they made it clear that the company has no separate company culture and everything is THE PARENT COMPANY WAY, meaning company comes first. This lack of proper HR is really no surprise seeing that disgruntled employees or fans created a Secrets page to anonymously discuss company or employee issues.

The office doesn’t even practice what it preaches. The current CEO of the company loves to bang on about “stakeholder-centricity, tolerable risk, and bias towards action”. In reality, the company culture is basically the same as the Parent Company, which is risk-averse, bureaucratic, and loves the status quo. The office HR was proud to point out everything in the company runs the PARENT COMPANY WAY. If that was not an issue, there is also the fact that my former manager was hired without HR involvement. First he received a phone call from his friend, the current head of marketing, to go for an interview. Then, he and the market head go out for drinks with the CEO and later have an actual office interview just for show.

Another problem at the the company office is that the CEO is too busy doing public appearances instead of doing his job at the office. While the CEO loves the media attention advocating design thinking and the stakeholder-mindset, in reality none of the things he talks about can be implemented in the office as planned due to the company culture being dictated by The Parent Company and because of his limited involvement at work. It would not surprise me that he will leave the company once the hyped website and mobile app revamp is completed.

Other problems I’ve noticed in the office to list are:

-Lack of close colleagues with them making excuses to not connect on Facebook/Social Media
-Random favouritism with my former manager giving more time to the younger female colleagues while being disrespectful to me
-Fake professionals claiming to stay in contact and then lash out with calls to “just move on” when contacted for advice
-Employees that are either extremely loyal to the company or extremely disgruntled with nothing in between
-Managers actually trying to undermine other projects because they didn’t think of the idea first
-De facto segregation with some departments populated by foreigners and others purely HK locals.
-Giving an employee a pay rise and bonus one year then accusing them of being godawful with threats to the job the following year.
– Weak-minded or desperate jobseekers willing to end friendships or blindly side with The Company for the sake of extra money.

Looking back, it was an OK move to leave that office. I am still recovering from the effects of working in a toxic office and all that job nonsense. Planning on relaxing before starting my new job later this quarter.

Blade Runner: Black Out 2022: Shinichiro Watanabe Crafts an Incredible Short Film

Nightmares in Celluloid

Shinichiro Watanabe got to direct a Blade Runner short for the upcoming movie, Blade Runner 2049. It rules.

Blade Runner: Black Out 2022 is a short that fits in between the original movie, which took place in 2019, and the new film. This short is part of a project to fill in key historical events that took place between the two movies. The last one showed the rise of the Wallace corporation, while this short’s aim is to explain the fall of the Tyrell Corporation. The event that would lead to the Tyrell Corporation’s destruction is referred to in the title of the short; Black Out.

On to the plot:

The short takes place three years after the end of the original film. We are quickly briefed on some events that happened since then. One, the Nexus 6 has been retired. In case you don’t remember, these were the model…

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Secret Empire: Omega 1: Discussion

Retcon Punch

By Ryan Mogge and Drew Baumgartner

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Ryan: Every event in your memory left some sort of mark. When it comes to trauma, those marks are more like deep grooves. No matter how much you heal, or how much better off you are, you are changed by what has happened to you. In the wake of a rebellion against a group of fascists bent on world domination with the face of the most trusted man alive, you certainly can’t expect to move forward without being changed. In Secret Empire: Omega 1, Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino offer a mixture of back-to-normal plot points and artful rumination that operate quite differently but still offer the same themes of trauma and the scars left behind.

View original post 1,399 more words

Secret Empire 10: Discussion

Retcon Punch

by Drew Baumgartner and Patrick Ehlers 

Secret Empire 10

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.

Mark Twain

Drew: This may seem like an odd quote to kick off a discussion about a comic featuring superpowered heroes battling over bits of a cube that can rewrite reality, but I think it’s safe to say Secret Empire has really never been about superpowers or cosmic cubes. Those are the trappings of a big summer event series, sure, but the story was actually about how seemingly good people can be corrupted by toxic ideologies. That’s immediately recognizable as Steve Roger’s arc through Steve Rogers: Captain America and Secret Empire, but it’s also an arc that has been running in the background of Hydra’s America throughout this…

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My Dormant Blog Still Gets ~1000 views per Month

I haven’t been active on this blog for years, other than the sporadic post regarding current events or writing about whatever topics are of interest at the time.  Despite being inactive, the frequently searched posts are ones related to the old “Prison Break” TV show, a review of a now-aborted comic storyline where Batman died, and various essays on Asian history and culture.  Even though most of those posts were written several years ago, they are still being searched by people to this day.

Why Does This Dormant Blog Hold Up?

I reckon this is a good question and I sometimes wonder why this blog is still relevant despite being dormant when compared to the period where I had the most content during 2006-2010.  If the “Prison Break” posts mean anything, is it suggests a good number of readers are interested in the show’s long and convoluted storylines given the success of the revival series.  Much of what I wrote about “Prison Break” spans from Seasons 2 to part of Season 3, where I stopped watching after they supposedly killed off Sara Tancredi.

After the show wrapped, there were enough people that still liked the cast and crew from the Prison Break TV show.  Not surprisingly, many of the show’s leads were eventually cast in shows like the CW’s “Arrow” and “The Flash”, with Dominic Purcell playing HeatWave while Wentworth Miller plays Captain Cold. With growing interest among the cast and solid home video sales of Prison Break, it was no surprise FOX commissioned a Season 5 revival of the show.

Even though the main character was killed off in the final season of “Prison Break”, they retconned it so that Michael Scofield somehow survived and is stuck in a Yemeni prison.  Because of this, Lincoln Burrows and C-Note have to work together with much of the supporting cast to get him out while dealing with another conspiracy.  I didn’t really have much interest in the revival series and joked with friends that liked the Arrowverse shows that Captain Cold and Heatwave were taking a break to do “Prison Break”.

How Does the Other Content Help?

Other than people’s revived or new interest in the “Prison Break” TV show, there seems to be ongoing interest in Batman being killed off, Asian social issues, and Asian-American issues.  The original post about Batman being killed off was actually about the character’s apparent death in a comic book crossover called “Final Crisis”.  The other posts mostly revolved around social issues or essays about Asian culture.

I am not going to discuss too much about how Batman gets killed off, as the recent DC Comics Nu52 reboot basically made it so all stories before the reboot did not happen (much like how some Japanese claim the Rape of Nanking didn’t happen or enough Turks claim the Armenian Genocide is a lie).  However, the ongoing DC Rebirth retcon of the DC New 52 reboot now claims that some stories happened but not in the way they were originally written and that Alan Moore’s Watchmen had something to do with it.  In any event, the post is still unrelated to ongoing concerns regarding Ben Affleck’s status as Batman in the DCEU movie franchise.

In regards to the posts about social issues, I reckon many people are more conscious of social issues whether they are real like Climate Change or based on whatever Twitter is talking about.  In this special place of social issues topics, many people are increasingly interested in posts about Asian-Americans given the lack of real conversations about issues that affect that community.  On the other end, people are also having a growing interest in history as much of it has an impact on our daily lives.

Final Thoughts

After reviewing the popular blog posts since the blog’s inception, it appears television reviews and opinions of social issues are what keep people visiting.  Even though the traffic gradually declined over the years due partly to inactivity and changes in search engine logic, the blog still gets on average a thousand views per month.  I am sure it really isn’t much in the grand scheme of things but it’s really interesting seeing as people are still interested in content that is years if not decades old.  Thanks for your time and support.

Michael Page International – Review

In the past and recently, I have been contacted by recruiters from Michael Page International. In the past I was brought in for an interview and the recruiters did not seem to have bothered looking at my application or my resume before evaluating a list of companies for me. Also, the recruiters gave me an attitude by saying the company I worked for at the time was “nothing” and they were the only gateway to a nice job in New York City. After the interview was over, one of the recruiters mentioned something about me being an “idiot” while leaving the interview room with the other recruiter.

From this experience, I can safely say that the recruitment consultants from Michael Page for mid-career or experienced candidates are unprofessional, ignorant and most of all arrogant. It would not surprise me if these junior recruiters were recent graduates who have cultivated a false sense of sophistication from their first job at Michael Page in New York City or possibly from their employee orientation programme.

This is one of the reasons I tend to dissuade my peers from taking Michael Page International seriously. Their recruiters are arrogant and they will mistreat you if you are not in a middle or executive management role.

Recently, two recruiters from Michael Page had contacting me. One was based in Philadelphia while the other was in Iselin, New Jersey. The person in Philadelphia for some reason assumed I was looking for work in sales in that area despite submitting my resume on MichaelPage.com, Monster.com, and Careerbuilder.com indicating that I am of a marketing and telecom background in several places. Another person called today when I was in the middle of a fire drill also asking if I was in sales.

I asked him nicely to email me the information so I can follow-up, yet he kept trying to collect information. After I reminded him I was busy in a fire drill and asked for the details in an email, he abruptly hung up on me. Again, I would like to point out the piss poor professionalism from the renowned Michael Page International recruitment consultants.

I have been told that these recruitment consultants do not get commissions from successful hires but these kids are acting as if they are under pressure to make quotas and they seem to have little or no training in properly contacting candidates.

I am not sure how the Michael Page International recruitment consultants are in the rest of the world, but I can safely say that the American office was rude, arrogant, and difficult to work with. If you don’t believe me, you can read all the wonderful reviews on glassdoor.com