While most organizations agree, at least publicly, that developing the right culture is important to their continued success, many don’t have a handle on creating, maintaining and especially fixing a culture that is broken. When things are rotten in the state of the organization, it is so much easier to blame, stick heads in the sand and pretend that everything is going well. Apart from being unhealthy places to work at, toxic cultures are functioning far below the optimum level. Think of a poorly unmaintained, un-tuned vehicle that is being driven with the emergency brake on. One sure sign of a broken culture is that employee engagement is low.

A Gallup Poll study found that employees who are disengaged had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents and 60% more errors in their jobs. Over time this translated into 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth and 65% lower share price.

Here are 7 things that can be considered in rebuilding a company culture:

Management Must Openly Acknowledge the Problem and Honestly Look for Solutions

A broken culture can be a result of the direct actions of management or as a result of a management “hands off” approach that took little interest in the internal functioning of the organization and as a result allowed a toxic culture to develop. Either way, it happened on their watch so the first step is for management to acknowledge things are not working well and take action to repair the situation. When openly acknowledging the problem, it is critical that leaders come from a place of authentically, looking for solutions, instead of blaming and scapegoating. If staff believe that the real purpose is to find blame, the whole thing may backfire and make the situation worse.

Own Their Part in Creating the Situation and Take the Lead in Fixing it

Whatever happened to create the broken environment, management needs to accept they had a hand in the situation and accept full responsibility for taking the lead in cleaning it up. The first step is in coming up with a plan and timeline and process to gather feedback and ideas from staff. To be inclusive, creates a team effort mentality that will build bridges of trust again.

Take the Lead in Sharing Feelings in an Honest and Vulnerable Way

A toxic workplace creates a great deal of mistrust, dishonestly and lack of vulnerability. One of the first ways to break the cycle and become open with honest communication happening is for leaders to set the tone of what they would like to see happening. Some leaders may see sharing honest feelings as a sign of weakness, however the opposite is true. Most staff will feel relieved and appreciate leaders who have the courage to share their human side with them. It will give staff official approval to open up, be honest and share their feelings, the first crucial step to moving beyond the toxicity

Create a Safe Environment for Staff to Come Forward With Issues and Solutions

It is crucial that leaders set up an environment whereby staff feel they can speak freely without any fear of repercussions. This might take the form of encouraging staff to speak to someone on the leadership team that they trust, or asking for a representative from amongst them who they feel safe talking with. For some, it may be the opportunity to give feedback anonymously. While it is important for staff to be able to vent, it is even more important to receive their feedback on solutions. Developing a successful and healthy culture depends upon how much the staff feel they have been heard and listened to from their leaders.

Roll Out the Results and Come up with a Common Vision

After all the venting and discussion has taken place, the leaders can summarize the results and share them with their people. While the opportunity to vent is important, it is crucial to give a voice and empower staff to have an input in how they want to see their workplace in the future. While it is ultimately the responsibility of leadership to come up with a vision and direction forward for the organization, it is crucial for there to be buy in from the staff. Implementing common themes from staff feedback into the overall vision provides a sense they have real input and increases the chances of them buying in.

Create a Vision and Real Steps for Achieving It

The sooner the leaders come up with a plan after receiving the feedback, the better. Staff will be watching to see whether this is a real attempt at fixing the culture or a diversion to make it appear that management is really serious about fixing the problem. Small group and face to face meetings are the best way to share the vision of the new culture and steps for carrying it out.

Commit Serious Time and Resources to the New Culture

Actions speak louder than words and staff will want to see how serious leadership is about creating and maintain the culture that is being talked about. The only way to convince others that management is serious, is for them to witness the organization putting their money where their mouth is by committing substantial time, effort and resources not only in developing a healthy workplace culture, but ensuring that it carries on after the initial enthusiasm has died down. One way this can be done is by committing to regular timelines in the future for review, evaluation as well as ensuring that staff have the time and resources to continue this valuable work. Commitment of staff to their work culture will only be as great as they believe their organization’s leadership’s commitment to be.