Examples and Remedies – Knight Frank (UK) (2023)

Your business has bloomed from brainwaves on the back of napkins to a fully-fledged office with employees. Your balance sheet is looking less and less daunting. Money is being made. You’ve secured funding and you’ve found an office space that helps you thrive.

You think things look hunky-dory.

But, under the surface, something’s not quite right. Employees are feeling burned out, team leaders are becoming frustrated and it would seem morale is on the decline.

Something might be wrong with your company culture.

The Importance of Company Culture

Simply defined, company culture is the environment in which your employees operate. It is one of the main factors that make your business what it is, as it focuses primarily on the employees. And what is a business without employees?

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All businesses have a company culture which scales along with your business. Defining and nurturing the culture you want from the start is crucial in ensuring you attract the right kind of audience — from potential employees to clients. It also counts towards creating a healthy work-life balance for your employees.

Startups are fantastic environments for attracting new talent. They welcome ambitious millennials keen to swim in the deep-end and hear the CEO sitting next to them debate decisions. They welcome experienced professionals eager for the rollercoaster of challenges of what really could be the ‘next big thing’.

But startups are wired to grow quickly. Their ambition is to scale up and streamline existing workflows. But when the focus is on year-on-year revenue stats, it’s not uncommon for the people actually driving the growth to be overlooked. This could lead to employees feeling neglected and, eventually leaving, damaging your employee retention rates. This is a fundamental symptom of bad company culture which, as we’ll come to see, can seriously impact your bottom line.

What Are Company Culture Examples

As mentioned, company culture is what makes your business tick. While you might think it covers perks and benefits, such as free health insurance, work drinks and snacks and refreshments, the culture actually goes well beyond that.

Company culture can include your employees feeling comfortable to:

  • Take a full hour for lunch
  • Share personal issues with colleagues
  • Say: “No”
  • Speak openly about their mental health
  • Stand up for themselves
  • Feel excited about career progression
  • Feel safe enough to fail on occasion
  • Say: “I don’t know how to do that”

As a startup grows and scales, it can be easy to forget about the all-important company culture. In this case, employees can find themselves working under extreme pressure to reach mounting deadlines. If this isn’t caught early, it can create unrealistic expectations and toxic attitudes amongst teams.

Examples and Remedies – Knight Frank (UK) (1)

Bad company culture examples

A bad company culture breeds presenteeism, burnout and high turnover. While these may sound a bit like buzzwords, they’re poisonous symptoms of poor company culture - and it’s essential that every CEO, founder and manager actively avoid them.

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Not only can they create toxic work environments, but they’ll push your top talent out the door. Here are some of the prime symptoms explains:

  • Presenteeism is turning up to work for more hours than required. For some business leaders, that might sound like real dedication. But regularly getting in early and leaving long after contracted hours can be a sign that your employees are trying to overprice their abilities or — worse — trying to overcompensate for imposter syndrome.
    This culture of needing to “show face” could be blamed for the general decrease in sickness-related absence days throughout the pandemic. However, it’s been theorised that the findings point to a larger issue of presenteeism, whereby employees continue working despite feeling unwell. A June 2020 study by Canada Life UK backed this theory, reporting that 46% of employees felt pressure to be ‘present’ during lockdown.
  • Imposter syndrome is believing you got a job out of sheer luck and you’re anxiously waiting for someone to realise, tap you on the shoulder and say: “You don’t really know what you’re doing, do you?”
    Employers can unwittingly worsen this in their employees by setting unrealistic targets and a “never let them see you sweat” mentality.
  • Burnout is the result of excessive, prolonged, work-related stress. Symptoms include poor performance, low levels of creativity, nausea or headaches, exhaustion and workplace insecurity. Employees experiencing burnout have usually overworked themselves due to the pressure to perform, or may not have had a support system to help them cope effectively with workplace stress.
    In a Digital Detox survey by Just Eat for Business, it was found that 43% of UK workers polled admitted to sometimes feeling the effects of burnout, showing that it is an issue that all management teams need to address. The effects of burnout can be so severe that, if left unnoticed, it can cost the business - research by Deloitte revealed that the cost of poor mental health to employers reached a massive £56 billion in 2020-2021.

Naturally, employees can’t thrive in an environment of poor company culture and will leave in search of a more supportive environment.

How to Avoid Creating a Bad Company Culture

Create a company culture where it’s okay to say ‘no’

If your employees are feeling insecure, they’re likely to say yes to every extra task that comes their way, even if it means staying late — and especially if they don’t know that saying no is an option.

As a manager, you can lead by example here. When you’re open about pushing back on your workload without having your employees fill in the gaps, they can stop comparing their behind-the-scenes stress to your productive highlight reel.

When they’re given any extra work, allow them the freedom to say: “My current priorities are XYZ, which would you like me to deprioritise to fit your new tasks in?”

Offer clear expectations

In startups, it’s common to have one-man-band departments. Ensure you’re clear with how you measure success in their role and be realistic with them. A lack of clarity combined with unmanageable workloads can lead to burnout, as it runs the risk of keeping employees behind to stay late to meet difficult demands.

Remember, you want to encourage sustainable growth — not firecracker growth that shoots up to the sky, shines brightly, and then dissolves.

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Build a company culture that doesn’t punish failure

Everybody knows that failure is part and parcel of success. No great thing ever prospered without its fair share of setbacks — and not just in the world of startups.

The French state railway ordered $15bn worth of trains that were too wide for hundreds of platforms. George Bell could have bought Google for $1m in 1999 but said no — it’s now valued at $1420 bn.

Create an environment where sharing failure is just as important as sharing success. After all, learning from your mistakes is crucial to the success of your business.

Examples and Remedies – Knight Frank (UK) (2)

Introduce a wellbeing offering

Your wellbeing offering should be less of a perk and more of a necessity. The next generation of workers, Gen Z, can spot tokenism when it sees it, so try to think beyond free fruit and a kettle for hot drinks.

Rather than piecing together a package and hoping it lives up to employee expectations, consider asking your teams to help you design the wellbeing offering that will suit them the most. Ask what they expect, what they value the most and look at how to alleviate jobs that give them the most stress.

Remember, workplace wellbeing is a combination of financial, physical and mental. Offerings can even include budgeting support and financial planning. For a bit of inspiration, take a look at how these office spaces can boost employee wellbeing.

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Make company culture everyone’s responsibility

Bad company culture can sometimes give life to an “us-versus-them” mentality. In this, the more junior employees may feel disconnected from senior team leaders — even in startups that say they have no hierarchy.

Giving your employees accountability also gives them agency. If they’re responsible for contributing to the company culture by helping others, cheerleading their teams and boosting morale, they become a part of the solution and will be more willing to take positive steps.

Even in hybrid working arrangements, it’s easy to create a company culture. By keeping your employees a number-one priority and being intentional about connecting in person with face-to-face meetings, you can easily nurture positive relationships and confident teams that are happy at work.

Great Company Culture Can Boost Business Success

By successfully increasing employee engagement, wellbeing and job satisfaction, you’ll also be improving your bottom line. A recent study found that 69% of organisations that adapted the business during the pandemic found that the company culture offered a competitive advantage. A further 72% reported that the culture was behind the success of changing initiatives.

Taking the time out to establish your company culture - and continually working on improving and adapting it - can work wonders for your employees and business.

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What is an example of a weak culture? ›

Example of Weak Culture

Both employee A and B are working with a good pay in the organization. But employee B is more satisfied with the work environment than employee A, as the employee engagement is more for him in the organization and he feels like staying in the organization for a long time.

What are the factors that hinder positive work culture? ›

These elements can hinder your company's development of an effective culture:
  • Poor communication. ...
  • Toxic employees. ...
  • Focus on profit. ...
  • Resistance to change. ...
  • Performance management.
12 Sept 2016

How would you describe a negative company culture? ›

Negative company culture often neglects its top performers or actively punishes them by overassigning tasks and responsibilities. Warning signs that employees are not being incentivized appropriately include higher employee turnover and lower employee engagement levels.

What are 5 examples of culture? ›

Customs, laws, dress, architectural style, social standards and traditions are all examples of cultural elements.

What 3 words would you use to describe your company's culture? ›

Common Words to Describe Company Culture
  • Agile.
  • Collaborative.
  • Fast-paced.
  • Flexible.
  • Inclusive.
  • Passionate.

What culture is toxic? ›

A toxic work culture is a company environment dominated by practices, policies and management styles that perpetuate unhealthy habits and conflicts among team members. It can be harmful to employees, preventing them from being productive and growing professionally.

What can destroy a culture? ›

Let's look at the three most damaging things that can tank your culture:
  • Leaders Not Listening to Team Members. ...
  • Keeping Someone Misaligned to the Core Values. ...
  • A Leader's Lack of Courage to Make Hard Decisions.

What are some examples of cultural conflicts? ›

An example of cultural conflict is the debate over abortion. Ethnic cleansing is another extreme example of cultural conflict. Wars can also be a result of a cultural conflict; for example the differing views on slavery were one of the reasons for the American civil war.

What are the 3 most important things in a workplace? ›

There are three key employer characteristics a job seeker should look for in an employment relationship: reputation, career advancement and work balance.

How do you improve a poor working culture to be good in a working environment? ›

7 Powerful Practices to Improve Workplace Culture
  1. Build strong employee relationships. ...
  2. Connect people to a purpose. ...
  3. Encourage frequent employee recognition. ...
  4. Create positive employee experiences. ...
  5. Open up transparency and communication. ...
  6. Give teams the autonomy they seek. ...
  7. Schedule regular and meaningful one-to-ones.

What are 3 things that negatively impact my employee experience? ›

Examples of daily hassles may include lack of supervisor support, a heavy workload, conflict or unpleasant interactions, or annoying practical problems such as having too many responsibilities.

What a toxic work culture looks like? ›

A toxic workplace can also be one that pays poorly, does not recognize or reward exceptional performance, prioritizes customers over employees, fails to allow internal mobility, denies employees a voice, violates trust or prevents its employees from unplugging by constantly blurring the line between work and life.

How do you know if a work environment is toxic? ›

What are the signs of a toxic workplace?
  1. There are no boundaries around work. ...
  2. People don't trust each other. ...
  3. There's no room to make mistakes. ...
  4. People treat each other with contempt. ...
  5. The interpersonal relationships aren't healthy. ...
  6. There is no support for employee growth. ...
  7. People frequently feel gaslighted.
1 Sept 2022

How do you address a toxic workplace culture? ›

How to fix a toxic workplace
  1. Take responsibility. Leaders can't begin to resolve the problem of the toxic office without exploring how their own conduct may have influenced the situation. ...
  2. Communicate and observe. ...
  3. Re-establish a sense of security. ...
  4. Get everyone on board. ...
  5. Actually take action.

What are 7 examples of culture? ›

They are social organization, customs, religion, language, government, economy, and arts.

How do you answer a culture interview question? ›

Follow these tips for answering the cultural fit interview questions a hiring manager may ask you:
  • Take a pause. Before answering, take a brief moment to think about your response. ...
  • Be honest. ...
  • Ask for clarification. ...
  • Use real examples. ...
  • Show your personality.

What are the 4 types of company culture? ›

They identified 4 types of culture – clan culture, adhocracy culture, market culture, and hierarchy culture. You can take the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI) to assess your organization's culture in just 15 minutes and make strategic changes to foster an environment that helps your team flourish.

What are three workplace culture examples? ›

8 Most Common Types of Workplace Cultures
  • Adhocracy Culture.
  • Clan Culture.
  • Customer-Focused Culture.
  • Hierarchy Culture.
  • Market-Driven Culture.
  • Purpose-Driven Culture.
  • Innovative Culture.
  • Creative Culture.

How do you fix a broken culture? ›

If you have a broken culture, take ownership of the problem. Do an organisational assessment, get feedback from all your employees, and then develop and implement a strategy to repair your culture. It can be done, and it's a great way to unlock the growth potential of your company.

Can culture make us sick? ›

The influence of culture on health is vast. It affects perceptions of health, illness and death, beliefs about causes of disease, approaches to health promotion, how illness and pain are experienced and expressed, where patients seek help, and the types of treatment patients prefer.

How do you survive a toxic culture? ›

Survive a Toxic Work Environment: 15 Strategies to Help You Cope or Quit
  1. Tool #1 Establish Boundaries. ...
  2. Tool #2 Get a Support System. ...
  3. Tool #3 Keep a Positive Attitude. ...
  4. Tool #4 Go to Sleep Already. ...
  5. Tool #5 Healthy Eating. ...
  6. Tool #6 Move Your Body. ...
  7. Tool #7 The Power of Self-Talk. ...
  8. Tool #8 Do Things That Make You Happy.
30 Jul 2022

How do you get rid of a toxic culture? ›

Here are a few tips on how to fix a toxic workplace:
  1. Start communicating in meaningful ways. ...
  2. Know, and live by, your core values. ...
  3. Deal with employee absenteeism. ...
  4. Deal with employee turnover. ...
  5. Make work a safe place. ...
  6. Find out what others are saying. ...
  7. Rethink how you hire. ...
  8. Walk the talk.
15 Feb 2022

What is it called when you get rid of someone's culture? ›

Cultural genocide or cultural cleansing is a concept which was proposed by lawyer Raphael Lemkin in 1944 as a component of genocide.

What are three examples of conflict? ›

3 Types of Conflict and How to Address Them
  • Task Conflict. ...
  • Relationship Conflict. ...
  • Value Conflict.
10 Oct 2022

How do you make employees feel valued? ›

How to make employees feel valued
  1. Offer good compensation packages. ...
  2. Provide meaningful work. ...
  3. Prioritize a work-life balance. ...
  4. Start an employee recognition program. ...
  5. Celebrate achievements. ...
  6. Offer professional development and learning opportunities. ...
  7. Hire internally. ...
  8. Have performance pay or bonuses.

What are the 5 personal qualities of an employee? ›

Top qualities of a good employee
  • Reliability. Look for employees on whom you can count to arrive on time and finish their tasks. ...
  • Problem-solving skills. Valuable employees are driven to solve problems. ...
  • Teamwork. ...
  • Conflict resolution. ...
  • Communication skills. ...
  • Willing to learn and ask questions.

What do you dislike most at work? ›

Here's a look at 10 of the most recognized complaints employees have about their employers.
  • Lack of Communication. The biggest problem with any relationship is lack of communication. ...
  • Unfair Pay. ...
  • No Job Security. ...
  • Under Appreciation. ...
  • Favoritism. ...
  • Overworked. ...
  • Micromanagement. ...
  • Incompetent Managers.

What are 3 areas of improvement? ›

17 areas of improvement examples that you may have overlooked
  • Integrity. Integrity involves being honest and upholding strong ethics and morals. ...
  • Initiative. Initiative refers to a person's ability to take action without goading. ...
  • Ambition. ...
  • Time management. ...
  • Leadership. ...
  • Delegation. ...
  • Communication. ...
  • Teamwork and collaboration.

What are the 5 ways to improve employee well being? ›

Here are 5 ways to improve employee wellbeing and enhance satisfaction and productivity in the workplace:
  • Identify possible drivers of stress. ...
  • Implement employee mental health programs. ...
  • Encourage Mindfulness in the workplace. ...
  • Offer fun activities to recharge employees. ...
  • Recognize employees for their hard work.
26 Jul 2022

What are 5 strategies employers can incorporate to improve workplace culture? ›

5 Strategies to Improve Workplace Culture
  • Lead by example. ...
  • Build employee-first management style. ...
  • Reinforce the shared mindset. ...
  • Brand the employee experience. ...
  • Connect employees to the employer value proposition (EVP)

How do you handle inappropriate behavior at work? ›

Calling out inappropriate behaviour within the workplace
  1. What can one do in the face of inappropriate behaviour? ...
  2. Call Out the Inappropriate Behaviour Immediately Where Possible. ...
  3. Seek Help and Support. ...
  4. Consult the Human Resources Department. ...
  5. Explain How the Situation is Affecting Your Productivity and the Business.
17 Mar 2020

What are 5 behaviors that are considered to be irresponsible in the workplace? ›

Negative Behavior Defined

Hostility or aggressiveness. Narcissism or lack of accountability or responsibility. Rudeness, disrespect or bullying toward colleagues or clients. Actions or statements that undermine team motivation or business goals.

What is unacceptable Behaviour in the workplace? ›

Unacceptable behaviour

Aggressive or abusive behavior may include: threats of physical harm or actual physical harm. behaviour or language (verbal or written) that may cause staff to feel offended, afraid, threatened or abused. insulting or degrading language.

How do I know when to quit my job? ›

It may be time to quit your job when you're no longer motivated to complete your daily tasks, feel overworked or burnt out, or want to move beyond your current position into a more advanced one. These are a few signs that it may be time to quit your job and get a better one that more effectively meets your needs.

How do you know when to leave a job? ›

Read more about
  1. It's no longer encouraging your growth. ...
  2. You've achieved what you set out to achieve. ...
  3. You actively look for ways to avoid your job. ...
  4. You regularly approach work with exhaustion, burnout, or dread. ...
  5. It's causing you to develop bad habits. ...
  6. Your workplace has become unhealthy.
8 Feb 2022

How do you know your boss is toxic? ›

6 Signs of a Toxic Boss
  1. Increase in Unexplained or Surprising Resignations from Employees.
  2. Doesn't Coach Others or Provide Feedback.
  3. Unable to Regulate Their Emotions.
  4. Lacks Empathy and Emotional Intelligence.
  5. Doesn't Offer Appreciation or Praise.
  6. Sets Unrealistic Expectations.
16 Aug 2022

How do I prove a hostile work environment? ›

The crux of proving a hostile work environment case is evidence of the harassment. You should preserve any e-mails or voicemails that demonstrate harassing language. These communications do not have to take place at home, as any harassing treatment that extends from the workplace to your home qualifies as evidence.

What are the three types of hostile work environment? ›

Elements of a hostile work environment include:

Intimidating environment. Offensive behavior. Physical or mental abuse.

How do you know if a work environment is hostile or abusive? ›

Courts must look at the totality of the circumstances to determine whether an environment is "hostile" or "abusive" and should consider the following nonexclusive list of factors: (1) the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; (2) its severity; (3) whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere ...

What are the signs of a toxic employee? ›

Toxic employees are typically overconfident, have self-centered attitudes, and are rule breakers. They tend not to cooperate with others or respect their co-workers because they're always looking out for number one, which can make them difficult people in the workplace environment where teamwork is needed most often.

How do you handle and overcome a toxic employee? ›

How to manage toxic employees
  1. Have a thoughtful discussion in private. ...
  2. Be prepared for pushback. ...
  3. Document everything. ...
  4. Offer constructive feedback in public. ...
  5. Comment on the behavior, not the character. ...
  6. Continue to grow as a manager.

How do you address a rude workplace? ›

Five Ways to Deal With Rudeness in Your Team
  1. Be a good role model. How you treat your people can impact the way that they treat others. ...
  2. Don't ignore it. If you ignore rude behavior, you send out a signal that, in effect, you condone it. ...
  3. Deal directly with the culprit. ...
  4. Listen. ...
  5. Follow up on any offender.

What is a positive company culture? ›

A positive company culture affords employees respect while expecting quality work every day. A positive environment often encourages collaboration. The management trusts the experience and decision-making of the employees, allowing them to take on projects without constantly hovering or correcting.

What are signs of a good company culture? ›

13 Signs Of A Great Company Culture
  • High Employee Retention.
  • Regular and Transparent Communications.
  • A Diverse Workforce.
  • Regular Employee Recognition.
  • Ongoing Professional Development.
  • A Clear Vision And Values.
  • Employee Benefits.
  • Positive Working Relationships.

What are 4 examples of cultural factors? ›

Culturally determined characteristics include: the language spoken at home; religious observances; customs (including marriage customs that often accompany religious and other beliefs); acceptable gender roles and occupations; dietary practices; intellectual, artistic, and leisure-time pursuits; and other aspects of ...

What are the 5 key elements of culture? ›

The major elements of culture are symbols, language, norms, values, and artifacts. Language makes effective social interaction possible and influences how people conceive of concepts and objects.

What are 8 examples of culture? ›

8 Examples of Strong Culture
  • Shared Experiences. A history of shared experiences such as difficult problems that were overcome as a team.
  • Habits. Shared habits such as the norm that people keep common areas in an office clean.
  • Expectations. Pervasive expectations. ...
  • Language. ...
  • Ethical Climate. ...
  • Tone. ...
  • Comradery. ...
  • Traditions.
24 Nov 2017

What is a real life example of culture? ›

What is culture and its examples? Culture is the societal norm, values, and beliefs that a group of people ascribe to. For example the culture of working long hours is one that most American's ascribe to but many other cultures do not.

What makes employees happy? ›

While more money can help put a smile on your employees' faces, it's not the only way to keep them cheerful. Boosting work-life balance, being transparent, offering cool benefits and saying “thank you” more often all help boost employee morale.

How do you build a strong team culture? ›

To build a strong team culture, you need to decide what you want that culture to be, define your expectations for your team, and set an example by living up to your company's values in everything you do. Then, you'll be able to work with your team to continue to grow and cultivate your company's culture moving forward.

What makes you most happy at work? ›

Factors like a healthy work environment, fair compensation, access to employer-sponsored benefits, opportunities for development and the potential for advancement commonly contribute to employees feeling content in their roles.

How do you know if a company's culture is toxic? ›

Characteristics of a toxic work environment
  1. There's little to no enthusiasm. ...
  2. There's a pervasive fear of failure. ...
  3. There's constant dysfunction and confusion. ...
  4. There's never-ending gossip and drama. ...
  5. There's high employee turnover.
10 Feb 2022


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