The Neglected Culture

Without intentionally cultivating and nurturing your company’s culture, you’ll get what emerges from neglect. And it won’t be what you or your employees want. Your customers will know that something is “off” with your company.

Ugly things grow from neglect. Discontent settles in. An aimless anger grows. Counterproductive behaviors dominate. Slowly, imperceptibly your culture devolves into a toxic mess that chases away those with the stamina and willingness to redirect the neglected culture.


Malcom X once said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Your company’s culture is a proclamation of what it stands for.


For all the human capital spent managing budgets, planning the new year’s activities or implementing another project, the results will not please those sitting at the top of the hierarchy.

Can great things happen in a neglected culture? Sure. However, unnecessary calories are burned just doing the necessities in business: manage, lead, produce.

Certainly signs of high turnover or inability to fill key positions can be symptoms of a culture unintentionally created. Here, though, are more insidious signs. Insidious because they are likely to be considered the norm, or “just how things are done around here.” They are all too often a byproduct of a neglected culture:

  • Lack of productive conflict in exploring ideas, shaping the direction of the company
  • Long standing, unresolved differences between departments
  • Poor executive visibility amongst employees
  • Tolerance for gossip
  • Keeping underperformers; letting toxic managers, employees stay

Malcom X once said, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Your company’s culture is a proclamation of what it stands for.


Slowly, imperceptibly your culture devolves into a toxic mess that chases away those with the stamina and willingness to redirect the neglected culture.


What does your company stand for if its culture is shaped by neglect?

Certainly a tough question to face. But one worth the investment in time and energy. Knowing what your culture stands for can be liberating, exhilarating, inspiring, and certainly motivating.


Art by  valvett

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of ExchangeGain. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

  • Deb Mills-Scofield

    Culture exists by ‘omission or commission’ – we so often forget that – ignoring the culture doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – or need tending.

  • Skip Prichard

    In an uncertain economy, many companies focus on the bottom line. Investments in “culture” or “training” at times can disappear. And yet, this post is right–neglecting your corporate culture will prove disastrous down the road.

    I will also add: this site’s new logo, look & feel, etc. is fantastic! Congratulations.

  • Denise W. Barreto

    Love this article -it is precisely what I discuss with many of my non-profit clients where they especially hurt themselves by ignoring this.

    I appreciate it and will be spreading it.


  • Jordan Purpero

    Great post-

    We can’t forget culture – if ignored bad things happen. Building a great culture is difficult to obtain but extremely fragile and easy to damage.

  • Kristine Rice

    Great article. Your points are spot-on. Company culture drives business results (either success or failure). Executives need to remember to not only nurture their customers that purchase from them, but also their internal customers (employees).

  • Stevie Scott

    This is a great article , so often organisations say they stand for something – but ask the employees and they will say something different .

    Its so easy to neglect the less tangable things in the current climate and focus on simply finances , but what will be left of the culture when the ecconomy starts to recover?
    I would say that the recovery of culture and reputation will be far slower if ever the same again for some businessess .

  • Shino

    Thanks for writing this!

    I do have a few comments/questions about the above from a start-up perspective. In more established companies, I’ve found the above to be very true. It is really critical to focus on culture combined with core values, mission, etc.

    However, in the start-up world I’ve found there to be a very different philosophy amongst founders when it comes to culture, which I’d love to get your take on it. I’m talking specifically about early-stages and/or very small teams of less than 10.

    One of the arguments I’ve heard from founders is that they worry less about company culture because the people they hire (mainly more seasoned, senior folks) bring the type of culture they want to foster within the company. Therefore, the company organically becomes the right type of culture whereby allowing the founders time to focus on other matters.

    I’d really like to hear your perspective on this. Thanks!

  • Shawn Murphy

    Hi Denis,
    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m sure your clients benefit from your counsel. Be well.

  • Shawn Murphy

    Hi Skip,
    Thanks for the kind words on the site’s new look. It’s just the beginning. And it’s great to “see” you here.

    In terms of uncertain times, it’s those environments that reveal what the culture is. Certainly uncertain economic situations expenses are scaled back. However, I believe culture continues to be nurtured in how news of such difficult times is communicated, the respect paid to employees in such times. Investments in culture aren’t solely monetary. They are also leadership actions demonstrated by decision makers and employees. Thoughts?


  • Shawn Murphy

    Exactly. Nice succinct summary, Deb. So good to see you here.

  • Shawn Murphy

    Hi Jordan,
    It’s a difficult balance to be sure. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Shawn Murphy

    Hi Stevie,
    The pessimist in me says the companies you write about will continue to eek out bonuses for the top brass. The optimist in me says some of these companies will make changes as they struggle to find and retain talent willing to work in crappy work environments.
    We’ll see how this plays out as more of the generational shifts take place.


  • Shawn Murphy

    Hi Shino,
    I think there is inherent danger in this approach. In fact in conversations I’ve had with VCs, they intentionally look for leaders who can create the culture necessary to achieve financial success. Letting the culture be dictated by senior folks coming in adds to the chaos surrounding culture.
    The founders of the business need to be open to letting the culture grow organically, but with a purpose (vision, dare I say!)

    The type of culture needed/wanted should guide selection of senior managers, employees. Zappos is the epitome of this belief. Their recruiting practice includes a buy-out that occurs during training. For those who make it through the hiring process and make it to training are offered a sum of money. They can take the money, no questions asked, no hard feelings, and leave. You can see the many dimensions of culture in this test.

    So for those founders who hire people and let them shape the culture are positioning themselves for greater disappointment.

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