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Extinguishing an Incendiary Culture

A fire cannot burn without oxygen. Is there an equivalent solution for ridding a company of its toxic culture? There is, but it’s not as easy as it seems.

The idea that only senior business leaders or the CEO can reverse the course of a company’s culture is pure and utter fiction. Each and every team member is a link in the company’s DNA, and each and every team member has an individual responsibility to contribute to the company’s identity.

A toxic culture is nothing more than a mob mentality reincarnated in business professional attire. You can join in the riot because others are rioting, or you can choose to speak out against it. Those are your choices. When the innocent bystanders, and even the rioters themselves, look at you and then look back at the path of destruction the others are leaving, they too will have a choice – whose lead do I follow? This is the essence of culture modeling, and it just might be the hardest work you do at work.

Culture modeling is the courageous action of individually representing, day in and day out, what you want your culture to be. It is the understanding that the CEO might be the last member of your company to change, but that that doesn’t stop you from exemplifying the attributes that would otherwise negate toxicity.

Know that it’s not dishonorable to leave an organization that doesn’t fit your needs, or one that, even if it changes for the better, isn’t where you will do your best work. There is much to be said about holding others accountable for cultural transformation, but – if you decide to stay – know that accountability starts with you.