Do you need to look at changing your organizational culture? 

Here is a checklist that might help you answer that question:

1. Unhealthy leadership behaviors?

2. Low employee motivation?

3. Too many/too long meetings not getting anywhere?

4. Too much change all at once?

5. Teams and functions resentful of each other?

6. Diversity and inclusion not really celebrated?

7. Too much red tape in processes and decision-making?

Don’t worry if many of the above choices apply to your organization. If so — you’re not alone. A recent global Gallup survey shows that 85% of employees around the world are not happy at work —whoa!

That is a shocking and sad number, considering we spend most of our conscious lives at work.

Working with clients for years in organizational change management and leadership development, I have seen one thing common about toxic organizational cultures: Employees are passive usually — they have pretty much given up.

And I get it — I know how demotivating it is to be in an unhealthy work environment.

Here are a few small ways to make a BIG change in your organizational culture through your leadership style:

Ask Questions and Empathize

A common problem in organizations is the “blame game.” It’s very easy for teams and individuals to blame one another for things not going as planned.

And, indeed, it is very frustrating when you depend on other people to do your job, and they don’t deliver. 

But many times, we become so angry and resentful towards others that we miss their side of the story. 

Instead, be open to understanding the point of view of your counterparts before you begin blaming them. 

Keep an open mind and be curious about the root cause of a problem, which 9 times out of 10 has nothing to do with the person, but more likely has to do with a faulty process in place. 

Then, share your point of view and suggest collaborating to find a solution that will better meet everyone’s needs.

Encourage Ideas Over Complaining

Many employees can devolve into complaining when things aren’t going right and you will probably catch wind of it. Complaining certainly doesn’t do much to help the overall work atmosphere. 

If you notice someone complaining or talking negatively about what’s not working, ask them: “What would work? How do you think we can make it better?” 

Instead of talking negatively about what isn’t working, try to refocus discussions on the things that ARE working and suggest ideas for improvements.  You will be surprised to see how drastically this leadership tip helps in changing organizational culture. 

Think and Speak in Terms of What is Best for the Organization

Sometimes, even leaders can lose sight of the bigger picture when we are so busy in the day to day. 

Take time periodically to assess the organization as a whole and look at how an inefficiency in the workplace may be impacting broader, strategic goals, and speak to that. 

Speak in terms of the organization’s strategic goals rather than in terms of your own interests, which will inspire others to think and act from the same perspective.

Suggest a New Kind of Event

Forget the happy hours and trivia sessions and come up with something more creative that allows people to share more of themselves. 

How about an open mic where employees can share their personal stories and interests and get to know one another? 

How about a Brainstorm Session, where employees can crowdsource their best ideas for making improvements in processes and tools?

Share Vulnerably

Along with asking questions, be open to the idea of sharing your own feelings with your organization. 

We are conditioned by society to act “tough,” keep work and feelings separate, and generally be defensive and guarded. Sometimes this isn’t the most productive way to handle things, though. 

Challenge yourself by sharing a more personal feeling instead of bottling it in, and without blaming anyone. This role modeling by you will allow employees to feel more comfortable to do the same, creating a more open and positive workplace and increasing employee engagement. 

Encourage Others to Speak Up 

Workplace discrimination is extremely common and can happen for a multitude of reasons: age, race, gender, cultural heritage, sexual identity, and even personality type, to name just a few. 

If someone notices something that seems unfair, encourage them to choose to not just ignore it. If someone’s voice is not being included in a meeting, take the extra effort to ask that person’s opinion and include them in the discussion.

Take steps to create a more fair and equitable workplace, by being a role model for others on how to challenge the status quo.

Compliment Someone You Dislike

This one can work magic as a step towards changing organizational culture— but it’s hard, no doubt. You might need to fight all of your impulses, and instead look for something you actually like or admire about the person, and then mention it to them. 

Don’t make it obvious or forced of course; the compliment should come up naturally and be something that you actually think or feel. 

It will come as such an unexpected surprise that the other person will probably soften and be more open to your ideas/feedback from then on.

Address the Problem, Bringing in Data and Research

A leader can do a lot to change organizational culture, but he/she still needs evangelists in the organization for the effort. It never hurts to have external, proven data to back up why changing organizational culture and keeping employees engaged is important. 

You will have no trouble finding this data if you do a Google search for “employee engagement business performance data,” as there are literally hundreds of studies showing how poor employee engagement leads to lower productivity and poor business performance. 

Share these studies at work to make others aware and hopefully catalyze some momentum for changing things.

Remember, there are literally millions of ways you have the power to change your company’s culture, even if it doesn’t always feel like it. 

These are just a few ideas to get your mind working — try them out with an open mind, stay consistent, and you’ll be amazed by the changes you see and feel.

Want to learn more about changing organizational culture?

Check out for the team and leadership coaching we engage in with organizations to dramatically improve culture!