Firm culture… You have one… whether you created it intentionally, or whether it “just happened.” Most of the time, it “just happens” with no deliberate action. People do what they do… and it spreads.

What if you focused on what creates a positive, constructive culture… and what creates a less effective firm culture? That is exactly what Fast Company contributor Matt Ehrlichman did. He and his leadership team looked at what they didn’t want in their organization, drawing on their experiences in large and small companies. What they came up with is this list… 6 Signs Your Company’s Culture Stinks.

1. You’ve got gossips in your ranks. No one likes jerks. But almost as detrimental to being jerky is being a gossip queen. This is the antithesis of transparency and collaboration. Even if it is not malicious, it erodes an organization’s culture and energy over time. Cliques form and employees find comfort in their connection to each other through trash-talking–instead of building relationships based on accomplishments and goals.

 2. Your leadership team has bad habits. Culture is a normative inheritance, much like child rearing. Kids look and act like their parents despite how hard they try to do otherwise. The same holds true in your organization. Your leadership is the best indicator of the entire organization and so employees’ bad tempers, sloppiness, lack of collaboration, and general attitude provide valuable insight into the health of the company.

 3. Your managers’ hands are too clean. When managers are not willing to get their hands dirty with the troops or do hard work, there’s no number of free lunches that can help your company. There are severe culture consequences when managers are disengaged from the front lines and, by extension, your customers.

 4. Your Employees are competing… with each other. Competition is great. It’s imperative. I believe that you should compete with yourself. What is not necessary is competing internally. You know you have a rotten culture when employees spend more time competing with each other than with external forces.

 5. You don’t play together. McKinsey coined the airport interview test–-If you were stuck in an airport with a candidate, would you enjoy it? You have to work a lot together in a startup, often pushing through tough situations. These can actually shore up relationships, but only if they exist already. Companies that don’t make time for team building or relationship building outside the office inherently face talent retention risks.

 6. You lack school spirit. Employees should come to work every day more excited than the last. Their attitude is powered by shared beliefs of the organization–employees should have a unified understanding of the key value drivers applied to decision-making. There needs to be a deep care and belief in what the mission of the company is in order to delight customers, develop raving fans and repeat the cycle. The moment an employee stops believing in the company and taking pride in their job significance, your castle will fall.

Culture is conscious state of mind. Make it unacceptable to stink.

I think all of us can recall past working experiences where one or more of these existed. They suck the air out of a room and kill the things that nurture a firm… enthusiasm, passion and commitment. Don’t let your firm be diminished by something that you could change. Tackle it now!