Treat The Culture Cancer On Your Team

Leaders must move quickly to address an employee whose behavior is cancerous to the culture. Failure to do so is a direct reflection on the leader and puts the organization's long-term vision, team synergy, and goals all at risk. 

In the end, as a leader, you are always going to get a combination of two things: what you create and what you allow. - Dr. Henry Cloud

Why You Must Treat The Culture Cancer

A leader's response will speak volumes to team members about the leader's ability to effectively resolve conflict and lead the team. A failure to address the issue, slowness in addressing it, or addressing the issue in a way that does not bring resolution all demonstrate leadership weakness. A leader must act swiftly and in accordance with the values and vision of the organization. 

The organization's long-term vision suffers when cancerous behavior is not addressed. People are drawn to a clear and compelling vision that gives them something to belong to, become together, and build together. When a team member's behavior causes people to question the vision,  engagement levels go down, collaboration ceases, and gossip increases. These all stop the shared pursuit of a vision dead in its track.

Team synergy thrives on trust, transparency, and accountability. When any of these are threatened or attacked, production, innovation, and collaboration all suffer. People stop seeing the business through the perspective of long-term vision, replacing it with a silo mentality and point of view - protecting their initiatives, territory, and goals. When this occurs the cancerous behavior begins to spread throughout the team and organization, infecting everyone in its path.

Ultimately, the organizational objectives and goals become less important and the desire to achieve them fades. Team members focus more on fighting off the cancerous team member than collaborating to achieve the goal. A team member will take offense to the ideas and work of the dysfunctional team member disregarding the merit of the idea or intention behind it - focusing only on the dysfunction the cancerous team member has caused in the past. Thus, eliminating all hope of achieving the organizational goals.

Take Action

If you find yourself dealing with a cancer to your culture, you must take action. Every leader can treat the culture cancer on their team by following these five steps:

  1. Document the behavior that is causing the issues for your team.
  2. Address the behavior issues with the person causing the problems.
  3. Communicate a timeline and process for treating the problem outlining both consequences for success and failure. 
  4. Monitor the progress and hold the person accountable to the treatment process.
  5. Decide to restore or remove the team member based on their treatment results.


  • Is there someone on your team that is a cancer to your culture?
  • What is your process for addressing a cancer to your culture?
  • Has your leadership brand been damaged due to a failure of addressing a cancer to your culture? If so, how can you rebuild trust with your team?

Make it a great day!

Coach Dan