Five culture-killing pitfalls worth avoiding

June 14, 2023

Successful business leaders recognize that creating the right environment can make or break their ability to achieve their goals. Winning organizations need qualified, motivated employees to turn their vision into reality. Most business leaders openly share it is a struggle to attract and retain mission-critical talent. Conversely, it is a well-known fact that employees who don’t like their organization’s culture are 24% more likely to exit.  

As much as leaders may intend to build an employee-centric culture, there are several pitfalls that can impede realizing that vision. These five culture killers are worth your focus to prevent them from interrupting your success.  

Pitfall #1: Employees do not know themselves

Not everyone has a clear vision for how they want their life to play out. In fact, many people select a field of study or career path based on other people’s input more than from internal motivations. Without a clear understanding of their unique strengths, they may encounter deep dissatisfaction well down the road on their career path. Only 44% of workers ages 18 to 29 are highly satisfied with their occupations.

Often companies turn to popular assessments to help employees understand their strengths and tendencies. However, these tools often place individuals into tidy boxes that may not fully express what is most meaningful and motivating to them.

Pitfall #2: The organization does not know their people

If individuals themselves are unsure about what drives them, it is even more unlikely that employers understand the inner motivations of their team members. The absence of a shared framework or formalized process to share preferences means that employers have limited means to support employees in finding fulfillment in their work. While performance management data focuses on work outcomes, it often overlooks the underlying motivations and untapped potential of employees.  

Company culture is mostly perceived through the lens of an individual’s relationship with their direct supervisor. If that leader does not seek to understand an employee’s unique strengths and tendencies, it is unlikely that the individual will view the company itself as being employee centric.  

Understanding each employee’s capabilities may uncover untapped potential that can improve results and reduce recruiting and onboarding expenses. Even among high-performing organizations, less than a third are effective at using analytics to track and measure skills of existing employees in the organization (30%) or skills required to get work done (29%).

Pitfall #3: Front line managers do not foster learning and growth

While understanding employees is a good start, it is essential that companies create an environment where individuals can freely express themselves to cultivate a positive company culture. Some employees may be successful in their current role but still feel unfulfilled because they do not regularly engage in tasks that truly satisfy and energize them.  

Front-line supervisors often have more flexibility than they may be aware of in providing opportunities beyond formal job descriptions, which can promote personal and professional development. Here are a few ideas among many possibilities to explore:

  • An employee interested in using their creativity can be invited to brainstorm new solutions for customers.  
  • If a team member expresses a need for responsibility, they could be empowered to track completion of team commitments and report on progress.  
  • Someone who values fun could be tasked with putting together the next team-building activity.  

Genuinely creating an environment of learning and growth pays big dividends. Employees who are satisfied with their employers providing purposeful work are 2 times more likely to stay, and those satisfied with their employer providing career development training are 1.7 times more likely to stay.  

Pitfall #4: Control is valued over real self-expression or accomplishment

Some leaders use a command-and-control management style in overseeing team performance. While this traditional management approach may prevent “messiness,” it also implies that managers know best, and employees need not bring their brains to work.  In this operating model, employees do as they are told, abandoning any notions of sharing innovative ideas that might generate breakthrough results. One recent study indicates that half of employees only feel “somewhat valued” and one in ten do not feel “valued at all.”

People-focused leaders adopt more of a “freedom within the framework” approach and invite employees to express themselves fully in solving big challenges and pursuing top performance. 81% of employees said they experienced more energy, happiness and productivity when they felt trusted at work.  Such an environment creates a powerful learning organization that harnesses the creativity and collective wisdom of the team in solving problems and adapting as needed.

Pitfall #5: Culture-killing behaviors persist

When business leaders declare their commitment to a positive company culture, they take on the responsibility to ensure behaviors are consistent and aligned across their organization each and every day. Companies that champion employee-centric cultures may still find that negative behaviors such as: micromanagement, blaming, dishonesty, lack of transparency, and withholding praise still exist in their ranks. Weeding out destructive behaviors that are inconsistent with the desired culture is critical – regardless of where it may occur.

If such crippling behaviors are allowed to persist, or the individuals exhibiting those behaviors are rewarded, the rest of the organization will perceive the duplicity and trust will suffer. Trust is such a critical factor for individual and team performance that it is not surprising that a recent study revealed that forty-seven percent of employees and managers would be willing to give up 20% of their pay for more trust in the workplace.  

Building a people-centric, winning culture

Culture is paramount - 46% of job seekers cite company culture as very important when choosing to apply to a company. Organizations that avoid these five pitfalls in building and maintaining people-centric environments will win the hearts and minds of their employees and get the most out of their potential – truly a formula for continued business success!

tru™ Strength Realization helps companies focus on work fulfillment as a key driver to organizational productivity.  Companies use tru to guide employees through a self-discovery journey that draws insights from achievements to isolate what is most fulfilling. Armed with this knowledge, business leaders provide employees with the opportunity to maximize their most-satisfying skills, roles, values, and needs in their work and create an environment that fosters self-expression. For more information, visit

Back to other articles