Is Your Startup Toxic? Simple Ways to Maintain Culture Whilst Scaling


Is Your Startup Toxic? Simple Ways to Maintain Culture Whilst Scaling

In the earliest days of your startup, you probably thought long and hard about creating the company culture you wanted to foster...

In the earliest days of your startup, you probably thought long and hard about creating the company culture you wanted to foster. We certainly did. After all, it forms a huge part of company identity and it would have laid the foundations for building a team that holds the same values and drives. 

Scaling and growth is a great sign of business success for startups. Unsurprisingly, it is what many founders strive for and is a key indicator of market fit and credibility. 

What we often see at this point, however, especially when this growth is rapid, is that focus shifts to new priorities and startups can lose sight of their cultural core.

Has growth made your startup toxic? 

So, you're not sure if your workplace culture is sliding towards toxicity? 

Being aware of a toxic environment and its impacts is the first step towards preventing it. Identifying exactly whether your workplace is toxic can be challenging as there is no one-size-fits all tick box exercise for such a nuanced issue, but some of the common signs of a toxic environment are: 

  • Inexplicable volume of staff turnover
  • Passive aggressive behaviours emerging
  • Blame shifting and finger pointing 
  • Lack of unity amongst teams
  • Low morale 

If you have noticed any, all or a combination of the above creeping into your day-to-day, this could well be signs that the environment is toxic - or at least early warning signs that the company could be heading that way. 

Why does it matter?

It matters because your people matter. 

Ultimately, a breakdown in company culture has the power and potential to shatter your people's happiness at work. With that comes a torrent of subsidiary issues - burnout, conflict, lack of development opportunities and motivation.

Time and time again, it will drive key talent away, too. According to Glassdoor, (77%) of workers say they consider a company's culture before applying for a job, and almost half of employees would leave their current job for a lower-paying opportunity at an organisation with a better culture.

It will also impact on your business performance with lower productivity, customer satisfaction and, in the long run, profits. 

Simple ways to get company culture back on track 

For leaders, it's important to address any signs of toxicity as soon as they appear. It is far easier to fix issues early on, than trying to recover from a toxic environment - although if you find yourself there, it's very possible to do this, too.

In our experience, once an environment has turned toxic interventions are required - it's almost impossible for it to self-improve if left alone. 

We are going to caveat this advice with a note that every individual startup will have its own unique set of challenges. These tips are broad, and whilst they apply to many different circumstances, please get in touch for more specific and tailored support. 

  1. Model the behaviour you'd like to see company-wide

Your people will be looking to you as leadership for guidance, support and to role model behaviours they should adopt. 

Top down example setting should not be overlooked as a key way to change behaviours adopted by the entire organisation. 

  1. Understand your people 

Listening - really listening - to your people will set you on the right track to gauge what your people want, expect and currently get from work. 

This information and understanding will uncover gaps, highlight areas for improvement and give some strong hints and where any toxicity is rooted. 

If you're reading this thinking ‚Äòthat sounds like a challenge in itself' then check out Vyou. We've made insight gathering really straightforward and beneficial for both leaders and employees. Our micro-surveys provide leaders with general team patterns, and employees with tailored recommendations on which to encourage self-reflection and tools needed to empower proactive solution finding. 

  1. Make work a safe space for your people 

Check over your systems. What do you currently have in place that ensures:

Employees feel heard? 

Employees can express opinions without fear of reprisal? 

Employees are safe to both succeed and fail? 

Employees can express ideas without fear of mockery or ridicule? 

If you have systems in place but they don't seem to be functioning, it might be that they need revising. If you don't yet have these structures set up, they can be introduced to ensure your people have greater security at work. . 

  1. Clarity 

Clearly define your culture and values. It might be that through periods of rapid growth, the company culture needs updating and adapting - or it might be that the existing company culture just needs pushing to the forefront.

Once you're comfortable with your company culture and values, ensure they are communicated, practised and stuck to. 

On another level, clear communication across the board also plays a key role in building trust, security and a positive company culture.

  1. Value your employees 

Sure, results are an incredibly important aspect of running a sustainable business, but people are your most valuable asset of all.

When they feel valued, magic can happen. If you feel the company culture is too heavily focused on results, look to re-balance with employee wellbeing. 

Collaboration, harmony, motivation, creativity, growth, productivity and crucially - happiness - will soar when employees feel valued. 

How Vyou can help?

Low cost but deliverable at scale, Vyou is an effective wellbeing tool that helps employees get the most from work and helps leaders to understand their people and make informed decisions around startup pain points such as rapid growth, burnout, retention, motivation or company culture. 

With a proven engagement rate of twice the industry benchmark, Vyou is a platform that your people will actually love to use. It uses micro-surveys, bespoke recommendations, insightful webinars and 1:1 human coaching to support employees on their own personal wellbeing journeys. 

Leaders have access to a general team overview. This gives them an understanding of the general mood amongst employees, and allows them to spot early warning signs of potential issues - allowing them to take quick action to resolve them before they develop. 

Get in touch with one of the Vyou team today for a free, no-obligation chat to discover how Vyou might be able to support your company. 

Happiness - it's good for business.

Want to learn more?

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