Culture Shift: Can you change culture if leaders are the problem?
By Steve Campbell Galen Emanuele

Culture Shift: Can you change culture if leaders are the problem?

Today I’m answering a question and dynamic that comes up an unfortunate amount of times: Can you change bad workplace culture if leadership is the problem?

If leadership is not open to feedback and improvement, does not genuinely care about employee experience, or they have a negative “it’s just a buzzword” kind of attitude towards culture, can you as an employee change that?

My answer: Nope.

Due to the power dynamics at play in workplaces, leaders have to be the ones to recognize it, have a desire for change to occur, and be the ones to take significant action in order for culture to go from bad to great.

It’s not your responsibility as an employee to continue to try — after making unfruitful attempts — to change leadership’s awareness or willingness to make things better. Find a place where folks in leadership care about culture, where they truly get it.

My advice is to do what you can to communicate and address what you see in a proactive, productive way. If there is no receptiveness on the part of leadership and the company, then think about making a different choice for employment, if you are able. To avoid the loss of your sanity and the inevitable result of burning out, move on to somewhere you will be appreciated and valued.

Harsh but true, and I’m not sorry about it. The landscape of business and workplace culture has gone through a significant change. The companies who are going to continue to play by the old rules are suffering greatly and will continue to suffer.

Yes, a lot of companies are starting to get it right.

Employee experience must be prioritized, and empty platitudes about respect and trust and teamwork just don’t fly anymore if the actual culture is anything but those well-intentioned values. If companies want to keep and attract great talent, they need to change their game.

Don’t beat your head against the wall forever and ever thinking that will eventually change the wall. Find a place you can thrive. There are actually a ton of them out there.

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


Steve Campbell

Steve CampbellSteve Campbell

Steve Campbell is the multimedia editor for Rental Management. He develops new digital opportunities for Rental Management subscribers and advertisers while also doing videos and writing stories. Steve is a huge sports fan with the Chicago White Sox, Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bulls being his top teams. He also enjoys DIY home projects with his wife and continues to figure out “dad life.”

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