Better Managers Can Remedy the Workplace Culture Crisis




One in four Americans say they dread going to work each morning, and almost half of American workers have thought about leaving their current jobs. Those statistics point to a grim reality for today’s employers: We have a culture crisis at work. And it’s costly.

SHRM’s new report, The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture, released today, reveals what many employers are seeing every day: the strong correlation between workplace culture, satisfied and engaged employees, and business productivity. When it’s toxic, everyone loses.

Nearly 1 in 5 American workers have left their jobs in the last five years because of a bad workplace culture, costing organizations approximately $223 billion. Their number-one reason for leaving? Fifty-eight percent said the culture issues rested with their managers.

The critical role People Managers play in workplace culture is also the subject of the latest in SHRM’s current series of television commercials. In the new spot, which launched on Friday, SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., talks with Ajay Banga, President and CEO of Mastercard, about the importance of inclusive cultures and the role managers play.

“People managers are the single most important thing,” said Ajay. “You’ve got to give people guidance, and that is the People Manager’s first and most important responsibility. It comes with the privilege of being a leader.”

Our culture report found plenty of room for improvement at the management level: One-third of U.S. workers claim their manager doesn’t know how to lead a team, and almost as many don’t trust their manager to treat them fairly. Another 3 in 10 say their manager doesn’t encourage a culture of open and transparent communication.

Cultivating better People Managers can have a positive impact on the culture, but leaders at all levels must join in the effort. Culture is a responsibility shared among People Managers, HR professionals, and other workplace decision-makers. Together, they drive the values and beliefs that underpin all strategy and structure in the organization.

Culture change isn’t easy or quick. But we at SHRM believe it starts with open, honest dialogue about what the culture is vs. what we want it to be. Such “values blueprinting” requires a candid conversation about the beliefs and principles that ground the organization. Once those values are blueprinted, we can have conversations that identify what works at work and what doesn’t—and what needs to change.

As the new culture report summarizes, “In today’s world, the best workplace culture wins.”

View the full series of SHRM’s new culture commercials featuring CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., in conversation with the CEOs of Humana, IBM and Mastercard at

Alex Alonso is SHRM’s Chief Knowledge Officer and author of The Price of Pettiness: Bad Behavior in the Workplace and How to Stomp It Out, now available from the SHRM Store.




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