Is Your Company's Culture Creating Ex-Employees?

by Stephanie Christensen

2 min read

Employee turnover is a trifecta of pain for small business: It impacts morale, operations, and it can cost you up to half of the ex-employee’s salary to fill the void. Left unchecked, it can spread like a virus.

While events like employee moves and the nature of your industry may dictate turnover to some degree, widespread employee “churn” is largely preventable.  If any of these four aspects of company culture sound familiar, you may unknowingly be causing employee turnover.

You don’t foster relationship building. While allowing employees time to socialize and celebrate birthdays and life events might not feel like actions that contribute to your bottom line, they can actually be an investment in preventing turnover. I/O at Work recently reported on a 2009 study called “Turnover contagion: How coworkers’ job embeddedness and job search behaviors
influence quitting.”
It found that how well employees felt they fit into their workplace culture “predicted voluntary turnover 18 months later.” Further, the study results suggest that employees commiserate with coworkers when deciding whether to quit their jobs.  In other words, one bad apple really can spoil the bunch.

You’ve given employees unrealistic expectations. Employee turnover is often caused by unrealistic expectations employees have about their job or your company.  Without realizing it, you may be at fault. The customer service axiom to “under-promise, and overdeliver” also applies to employee satisfaction.  Be upfront about where your business is today, and where you hope to be — but make no guarantees you aren’t certain you can deliver. Building anticipation around potential holiday bonuses will win you plenty of cheers at the company picnic, but if the unexpected happens and the money doesn’t show up in their paychecks, your staff will likely head for the hills.

You allow negative humor. Career Visions founder Jane Finkle says that employee turnover is also created when you allow staff to “make jokes or demeaning comments about customers, clients, or co workers. Gossip is contagious and this kind of behavior creates a negative workplace environment.” While such humor may create a “we” mentality, it’s not a positive one. Employees who view the culture as offensive and unprofessional won’t typically come out and voice their discomfort; they’ll just silently seek other opportunities. Act quickly by having a private conversation with any employee who is making inappropriate comments. Make it known that while tasteful humor is welcome, negative or hurtful comments are not.

You allow dictators. Passionate personalities add energy to a business, but Finkle points out that they can also be toxic. When an employee is overbearing in a meeting or argues with a colleague publicly, it’s upsetting to the entire workplace.  (This behavior includes company leaders). Address such issues immediately, in private, and suggest techniques for how to respond and resolve conflicts peacefully.  In addition, remember to document the scenario and outline clear consequences for the employee, in the event that the behavior continues and requires termination.

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