Culture Shift: Leaders, are you holding a high bar?
By Ashleigh Petersen Galen Emanuele

Culture Shift: Leaders, are you holding a high bar?

With what is currently happening in the labor market, many companies are becoming acutely aware of the reality that was highlighted by a recent analysis of more than 1.4 million Glassdoor reviews. The analysis found that a toxic culture is 10.4 times more likely to contribute to an employee leaving than compensation.

One of the topics that has skyrocketed to the forefront of many conversations involving organizational culture is around holding people accountable.

As an organization, if you don’t have a very intentionally defined culture that everyone takes ownership for, and you don’t have a history of holding people to a high standard of accountability, then you very likely have what exists in most organizations — a mishmash of inconsistency and behaviors when it comes to accountability.

Most organizations have a mix of high performing, really engaged, positive employees, a good number of middle-of-the-roads and typically a number of people who are disengaged or even toxic.

If you want to elevate your culture and improve employee experience, then that means you have to hold a higher bar. It means taking a hard look at what you’ve allowed to let slide in the organization up until now and making some changes.

What a lot of leaders and organizations are faced with is this: If you raise the bar and say, “We’re going to be committed to not allowing anyone, including leaders, to come to work with poor attitudes, exhibiting toxic behavior, mistreating their coworkers, or performing at low/mediocre standards,” then some people may quit.

For any organization that is already understaffed, the thought of potentially losing more people is hard to bear.

In my opinion, you are going to lose people either way.

Whether you choose to raise the bar and hold everyone in the organization to a higher standard, or you keep the bar low and continue to tolerate and endorse poor behavior and performance, you are going to lose a segment of your people. The question is, which one would you rather lose?

Yes, if you have poor behavior and low performing employees leave then you will have to replace them. The silver and obvious lining is that they will almost certainly be  replaced with people who will contribute in a more positive way and be many times more valuable than the ones who left.

However, if you continue with the same low bar, you will lose your highest performers and your most positive, productive people.

They may not quit their jobs, but they will stop trying or caring as much. You will lose their morale, engagement, excitement, productivity and loyalty to the company. They will care less and they will do less, all of which significantly affects an organization’s bottom line in a number of ways.

Galen Emanuele is a speaker and trainer on business leadership and team culture based out of Portland, Ore. Every week, Emanuele produces a video and blog post highlighting vital conversations, building skill sets and showing teams how to drive exceptional culture and leadership. To see more, visit

Ashleigh Petersen

Ashleigh PetersenAshleigh Petersen

Ashleigh Petersen is the digital communications manager for Rental Management. She writes news and feature articles, plus coordinates the monthly Safety Issue and several sections in the magazine. Ashleigh loves spending time with her husband and young son, baking, gardening and listening to true crime and comedy podcasts.

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