Toxic Workplace Cultures Cost Companies Billions

American businesses lost $223 billion over the last five years due to bad workplace culture, according to a new report from SHRM.

One in five Americans have left a job in the past five years due to bad company culture. The cost of that turnover is an estimated $223 billion, according to a new Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report on workplace culture.

Workplace Culture
(Photo: Business Wire)

“Billions of wasted dollars. Millions of miserable people. It’s not a warzone—it’s the state of the American workplace,” said SHRM president and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP. “Toxicity itself isn’t new. But now that we know the high costs and how managers can make workplaces better, there’s no excuse for inaction.”

The report, The High Cost of a Toxic Workplace Culture, surveyed American workers to explore the impact of workplace culture on both the well-being of workers and the bottom line of businesses. It found toxic culture costs companies a fortune in turnover and absenteeism; highlighted common indicators of bad workplace cultures, such as discrimination and harassment; and underscored the alarming impacts on employees.

The research also uncovered a seemingly critical skills gap at the management level. SHRM found employees hold managers—more than leadership or HR—most responsible for culture. They also say their managers often lack the soft skills needed to effectively listen, communicate, and ultimately lead.

Findings include:

  • Nearly half of employees (49 percent) have thought about leaving their current organization, while nearly one in five have left a job due to culture in the past five years.
  • Turnover due to culture may have cost organizations as much as $223 billion over the past five years.
  • Seventy-six percent of Americans say their manager sets the culture, yet 36 percent say their manager doesn’t know how to lead a team.
  • Twenty-six percent say they dread going into work.

In addition to this workplace culture report, SHRM also released its 2019 Workplace Fulfillment Index, which revealed 44 percent of Americans feel extremely or very fulfilled in their current job compared to 56 percent who feel less than fulfilled at work. It also explored which factors contributed most to fulfillment, and found workers ranked cultural factors, such as meaningful work and flexibility, as more fulfilling than factors such as commute times or professional development.

Workplace Culture
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