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How respectful is your work culture?

Customized employee surveys can show whether you have toxic leaders or managers in your company, and S. Chris Edmonds offers steps to help.

3 min read



In too many companies, toxic behaviors occur daily.

The December 2022 study by The Muse found that two-thirds of respondents experience toxic behaviors regularly. Toxic behaviors range from disrespectful, demeaning interactions to temper tantrums to bullying and harassment.

Who is responsible for toxic workplaces? Forty-four percent of respondents blamed organizational leadership. Forty percent blamed their direct boss.

How can senior leaders understand what it’s like to work in their company? One effective way to stay in tune with how employees are treated is through regular surveys. 

In our surveys, each question is stated positively, describing exactly how you want leaders to operate. Employees score each question on a six-point scale. The only desirable responses are at the 5-6 level — “agree” and “strongly agree” — to the positive questions on your survey. In essence, a 5-6 rating is a degree of “yes, this leader models this behavior,” while a 1-4 rating is a degree of “no, this leader does not model this behavior.”

One of the items in an Executive Team Effectiveness survey gets to the core of leaders staying in tune. It states, “Executive team members understand what is really going on in our company.”

One client’s average score on this question was 3.96 on our six-point scale. That’s more than a full point below the desired rating of 5-6. Here’s what we recommend to executive teams that score this low:

  • Listen and learn. Create channels for honest feedback. One client uses a digital suggestion box. Another holds informal group discussions with a senior leader regularly. Test channels, and stick with the ones that work for you.
  • Measure. Assessments like Executive Team Effectiveness surveys and customized Values and Behaviors surveys for formal leaders help give employees an anonymous avenue to rate leaders on how well they model desired behaviors in daily interactions.
  • Hold everyone accountable. Act on what you learn. Align all plans, decisions and actions to respectful treatment. Celebrate respectful behaviors. Coach and mentor disrespectful behaviors.

Issues like these can’t be solved immediately. Change requires long-term engagement and accountability from senior leaders to prove to employees that leaders are listening and are quashing toxic behaviors.


S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker and author as well as executive consultant, founder and CEO with The Purposeful Culture Group. He has authored or co-authored seven books, including two Amazon bestsellers: “The Culture Engine” (2014) and “Good Comes First” (2021) with Mark Babbitt. Edmonds’ videos, posts and podcasts are available at Driving Results Through Culture. Follow Edmonds on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Apple Podcasts.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 



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