How You Know You Have A Toxic Remote Work Culture

How You Know You Have A Toxic Remote Work Culture

June 12, 2020

Many managers are stuck on the processes they used to start their company or are so power-hungry they want to make sure that they are the only ones that look like they have contributed. Company politics and selfish leadership trickle down the organization to infect every team member independently. Fortunately, there are many signs that your remote company culture is toxic, so you can quickly identify the level of toxicity and jump ship in search of greener fields.

Some of the most obvious signs that a company culture is toxic are high turnover, micromanagement, and general team misery. Some managers and founders put on a smiley facade and bandaids where ever they can to get you onboard, but it is not long before you start to smell the stench of culture rot. Don’t forget, sociopaths are super personable. Here are some signs that your remote team culture is toxic:

1. You are scared to ask questions:

Successful cultures value feedback, learning and growth. If team members don’t know the answers to things and ask their uninformed colleagues instead of their informed managers then there is clearly a culture of fear.

2. Feedback is not encouraged:

Shhh, pretend everything is going smoothly. Everybody can improve, that includes leadership. If your leader or manager does not accept or promote a culture of feedback then their ego is dominating their management style. Constructive feedback should be encouraged so that mistakes are only made once.

3. You are expected to do your job without guidance or support:

There is nothing wrong with jumping in the deep end. The problem arises when you jump in the deep end and you need some help floating but all your team does is shame you while you slowly sink to the bottom of the pool. Even if there is no formal training for your role there should be team members and managers there to offer a helping hand. This is even more important for remote teams as isolation can easily set in if you are working from home and you are shamed for asking for help.

4. There is one person making all of the decisions for everybody:

Micromanagement is a problem no matter where it is in the office, the sports team, or the home. Not only is making everyone’s decisions not feasible it leads to horrible decision making because there is no input. It seems impossible that a remote manager could do this…against all odds, it happens.

5. You don’t implement anything without approval:

This is connected to micromanagement but goes even further. When no one is empowered to make decisions because it may not appease the dictator then nothing gets done and creativity is stifled.

6. Team members have multiple personalities:

Unfortunately, most companies have politics. Someone might think they are hiring a real go-getter but instead have allowed a snake in the front door. If team members behave differently in one on one conversations versus team conversations versus discussions with management you may have a political nightmare on your hands. In addition, if leadership cannot see it and encourage this behavior then just get out. If managers are okay with team members throwing other team members under the bus, then its only a matter of time before you have some tire marks.

7. There is little room for discussion:

I keep getting stuck on micromanagement. If only one person is talking and that talking sounds like orders being barked to subordinates instead of open discussions then there will be very little company growth or success.

8. People work in silos:

There is no I in team, but unfortunately remote workers are often left to fend for themselves. Synergy, as over used as it can sound is the core reason why teams exist. To create value greater than the individual contributors. Workers that don’t communicate not only lack creativity and ideas but can duplicate tasks or work on irrelevant tasks.

9. There is very little non-work interaction:

If your remote team is showing up a couple of minutes before the meeting then disappearing immediately after the meeting without additional social interactions in between then that individual is not engaged. If this is consistent for many team members then you have a disengaged team. Teams that only work on tasks and never get to know each other will never reach a level of comfort where they can provide essential feedback, ideas and discussions.

10. There is a lot of brown nosing

There was always that one person in the classroom…you remember. They weren’t the smartest or the hardest working or the most personable but they made a point to suck up to the teacher. More often than not those people got extra time with the teacher. If your manager is encouraging this type of behavior then they may have more ego than management skills.

11. Nobody says they are unhappy or share dissatisfaction:

It is already hard for remote team members to build relationships because of the lack of team-building opportunities online. This lack of connections may impact team member’s comfort level and willingness to speak out about dissatisfaction in the office even when it is obvious to everyone. If team members don’t feel comfortable having private discussions about company problems then they are likely fearful and disengaged.

12. Job security always seems at risk:

If you have a hot-headed boss you are in fear of getting fired at any time. Employees who live in a fearful environment will not be productive and likely completely disengaged. Managers that remind team members that they are the boss and shame them for making mistakes encourage failure.

13. Lower performance is shamed, not improved:

Leaders that invest in training, growth, and support for their team members see the return on investment in the form of low turnover, increased internal mobility, and improved productivity. Shaming individuals for not meeting goals then not giving them the tools and support that they need to improve will inevitability see great talent leave.


Leading and managing remote teams requires additional empathy and awareness. If team members have not built rapport with the rest of the team it is unlikely that they will have the confidence to contribute. Any team member needs to be supported and encouraged to provide feedback, ideas, and discussions that move the team forward. Managers that micromanage and lead with ego and fear will create political cultures where behavior is driven by fear.


About ChatFox

ChatFox is a Slack chatbot that builds remote team culture. Remote teams that only engage through projects, tasks, and deadlines do not foster a culture around shared values and goals. Build a strong remote team culture, improve remote team productivity, and eliminate team member isolation. Use ChatFox Icebreakers to build rapport with team members, use ChatFox Coffee Chats to have meaningful conversations with people across your organization, or use ChatFox Shout Outs to recommend a colleague and endorse their skills. Unlike other remote team solutions, ChatFox looks at remote team culture from a strategic perspective and has created engaging chats for your team that provide management with insights into remote team engagement, skills, contributions, and mobility.


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