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Bad Company: 7 Telltale Signs That Your Startup Is Forming a Toxic Culture

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I’ll never forget this one employee I had just hired at clarity.fm

His first few hours went super smooth.

But then at exactly 4:59pm… the guy BOLTED.

Laptop packed. Door shut. Making a beeline straight to the front door.

My jaw literally dropped. Here was this guy I had just hired… someone who was still getting onboarded to our team, our clients, and our company…

And he was more concerned about beating the afternoon traffic than getting up to speed and aligned with our mission. I mean… what the hell, dude!

I call this “Speed of Their Feet” syndrome. And if your company parking lot turns into a barren wasteland at 5:10pm…

Chances are you have at least ONE of the signs of a toxic work culture that I share in this week’s episode.

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At a high level, the clear “signals’ that you have a toxic culture forming are:

  1. Speed of their feet
  2. Asking for raise/perks
  3. Lack of empathy
  4. Dissatisfaction and anxiety
  5. High turnover
  6. Failure to meet deadlines and goals
  7. Lack of core values

The second item is where I get a lot of pushback.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with your team members asking for raises or demanding new perks.

In fact, I’m a HUGE believer in rewarding A-players above industry standard.

But if 20, 30, 50% of your team is banging at your door asking for more cash… not only will those rising costs eat you alive, but it’s probably indicative of a deeper problem in your reward structure.

“Asking for raises” can sometimes be a last resort that employees turn to when they’re NOT feeling appreciated or like they’re making progress in their career path… and they decide that they might as well get the most out of their crappy situation.

So always investigate more deeply. Especially if you notice a team-wide trend forming.

The sooner you catch these toxic signals, the sooner you can course correct and make your company an attractive place for A-players to do their best work.

Watch the full episode here, and then drop me a comment letting me know if any of these signals are present in your company, and what you’re actively doing to fix it.


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The SaaS Metrics Dashboard: Is Your Company Growing The Way It Should Be?