Is there such a thing as bad workplace culture?

Workplace culture is often cited as the reason for why things are the way that they are. It’s almost like an overriding explanation of why things aren’t working.

  • That team has a bad culture.
  • That organisation’s culture is toxic.
  • And so on..

And often, that’s where the analysis stops.

But here’s the thing.

There is no such thing as a good culture or a bad workplace culture. 

There is simply the culture that your team, workplace, organisation has.

For sure, there will be times that the current workplace culture doesn’t suit the strategic and operational needs of the organisation. Understanding what the culture is (really is) and what you need to meet the organisational needs is the first step to changing it to something that meets your needs.

Making sense of your workplace culture

The problem is, it can be super tricky to truly define both the culture you want and the one you have. Here are some definitions of workplace culture, to give you a sense of the breadth and depth.

  • The tacit social order of an organisation.
  • Culture expresses goals through values, beliefs and guiding activities.
  • Ubiquitous element of organisational life providing context in which employees work.
  • Culture is a manifestation of what is really valued.
  • The personality of an organisation encompassing: assumptions, values and artefacts.
  • The way we do things around here (and why!)
  • We are what we repeatedly do.
  • Pattern of shared assumptions learned by a group as it solves its problems.


If you believe the culture of your organisation isn’t working for you – it isn’t necessarily that the culture is bad. Simply that it doesn’t serve the needs of the organisation.

Being clear on what you have and what you need/want is critical.

Putting time and effort aside to truly understand where you’re at, and the impact (and degree of difficulty of changing) is essential as a first step.



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See you soon,


Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.

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