Having valued employees depart your company can be a good thing. Not always, of course, but would you agree if you found out they were leaving because your workplace culture was toxic?

While normally I agree that valued employees departing a company is bad news, there is one case where their departure is instructive – the case where you have a widespread or pockets of a toxic culture which have NOT YET been identified.  Consider the following graphic which compares employee actions (retention) on the vertical axis with workplace culture on the horizontal axis.

Employee turnover is a natural part of a vibrant economy. As employers, we clearly want to be on the left side of this chart where employees either stay and contribute or depart under good terms.

The right side of the chart is troubling. The orange block represents people reacting (leaving) to a toxic culture. Employers should take pains to identify if employees are departing for a reason caused by a poor work environment. Spotting these issues can be achieved through exit interviews, skip-level meetings, and conducting regular employee surveys, among others.

The red block, however, represents the GREATEST RISK to a company because it is a festering wound. In this quadrant, people are in terrible situations but choose to remain. They’re not happy and their managers may be unqualified. But people stay anyway and the organizational illness spreads to other employees (and even outside the workplace).

Ultimately, I’d prefer that valued employees stay. (Employees who are a bad fit are another story.)

The pivot point is that if employees experience a toxic culture of which we’re unaware, their departure may be the sign we need to spot and address a problem that is dragging (or threatening to drag) the organization down. Quite simply, companies shouldn’t delegate resolving toxic cultures to their employees.

The relationship between workplace culture and retention is well-documented. What are you doing to create a high-performance culture?

Employee Retention and Workplace Culture
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