At What Cost? 7 Effects of Culture Killers

I have a client whose top leadership is very aware that they have employees that are “culture killers.” They’re not everywhere, and it’s not everyone, but there are enough people in the organization who are toxic that it’s having enormous negative implications.

On the upside, the leadership is also fully embracing a new process to assess and enhance the culture. They’re also not naïve that this is just some “project” or “motivational program” that can be accomplished overnight. This is a process that will take several years of consistent work with meaningful conversation…and it’s worth it!

In a recent conversation we were discussing the downside of not doing this work. Here are seven vital reasons or implications of why this work matters so much:

  1. Loss of Meaning & Purpose – When there’s a weak sense of institutional identity (lack of alignment on mission, vision and values) people will feel disconnected, drifting and numb.
  2. Rigidity – It’s almost impossible to get people into a creative mode when there’s a sense of alienation/isolation.
  3. Cooperation Erodes – Trust, truth and teamwork will erode, and it will be replaced with defensiveness and blaming.
  4. Risk Aversion – People naturally turn inward and fear failure when the culture is dysfunctional.
  5. Burnout – Anticipate burnout. Some will burnout without evening knowing it. Talent and passion will drain away.
  6. Quiet Quitting – Because of the above points, some will do the bare minimum and “stay under radar” so they continue to get paid, without making any real contribution.
  7. Reputation Suffers – Weak culture affects your ability to (if you’re a nonprofit) recruit students, attract donors and talented faculty. If you’re a corporation – to produce quality products, attract and retain customers and talented employees.

And one extra…

  • Herd Mentality – Your culture killers will “pile on” your own organization around the proverbial water cooler. This leads to a loss of personal integrity for all who participate in the “herd.”

As I wrote last week, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how great the strategic plan is or how much you want to succeed. If the culture is weak or dysfunctional, it will negatively impact everything!

Culture is created by what the leadership expects, does and allows. Culture never occurs by accident. You will either have one based on intentionality or neglect.

Culture-building work needs to be approached as if the very life of your organization depends upon it…because it does!

Please share this with your friends who are organizational leaders.


This blog shares perspectives on how you have the ability to create new story endings that are meaningful, powerful and filled with hope. I facilitate culture changing and leadership building processes that help organizations achieve greater impact. Also, I provide leadership coaching to help executives and aspiring leaders become the fullest expression of who they’re intended to be.

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