Fixing Broken Windows: Cultivating a Strong Organizational Culture

Written by

Ms. Fahima AlHamaty

Healthcare Business & Operations Manager

In the field of criminology, the Broken Window Theory posits that visible signs of crime, disruptive behavior, and societal disorder can trigger an environment in urban settings that breeds further delinquency and chaos, including more serious criminal activities.

In simpler terms, the Broken Window Theory suggests that if a window in a building remains broken and goes unrepaired for an extended period, it’s likely that other windows in the same building will follow suit. This leads to a prevailing perception that crime is rampant in the neighborhood, largely because building owners seem to accept this state of affairs.

However, it’s worth noting that the “broken windows” concept extends beyond urban areas. Torbin Rick, in his 2016 article “Broken Organizational Culture,” points out that the same syndrome can afflict companies as well. Some organizations tend to overlook seemingly minor workplace issues because managers and business owners believe that addressing them is a futile endeavor. Michael Levine, in his book “Broken Windows, Broken Business,” presents compelling evidence that both significant and seemingly trivial hitches in business often stem from the neglect of small details.

As Torbin Rick aptly puts it, ”

Examples of these “broken windows” within companies encompass absenteeism, information silos, covert terminations, employee resignations without notice, ineffective human resources management, employee burnout, an unjust or disconnected organizational culture, and a lack of employee engagement. Michael Levine adds that sometimes, the most detrimental “broken windows” are the underperforming or incompetent employees within a business.

When customers experience mistreatment from poorly-trained employees or when employees have to work alongside someone who is not up to the task, they often conclude that the organization doesn’t value or respect them. As Leigh Buchanan emphasizes in her HBR article “Sweat the Small Stuff,” this perceived lack of respect from either customers or employees arises from the organization’s failure to “repair” or “replace” these broken employees, which can sometimes include middle management and executives.

To mend these broken windows and cultivate a thriving organizational culture, it’s crucial for leaders, managers, and employees to recognize the pivotal role they play in shaping the everyday culture of the organization. As Torbin Rick aptly states, “Organizational culture is fragile—it requires constant care and attention.” In today’s competitive business landscape, surviving without addressing internal “vandalism” becomes increasingly challenging.

Organizations that choose to disregard the early signs of problematic behavior within the workplace are likely to face severe consequences in the long run. They may struggle to stay ahead of their competitors, and unchecked, seemingly minor issues can drive employees away in search of environments with zero-to-little tolerance for poor behavior and subpar performance.


Ms. Fahima AlHamaty

Healthcare Business & Operations Manager

Fahima AlHamaty, a dedicated wife and mother of two boys, boasts over two decades of extensive executive healthcare management experience, spanning diverse domains like business, strategy, change management, and more. Holding an MBA in International Healthcare Management, she’s now pursuing a DBA at Universidad Catolica San Antonio de Murcia (UCAM) with a research focus on Strategic Human Resources. Additionally, she’s engaging in an Executive Education Online Programme in Innovation at INSEAD, all while nurturing her passions for reading, traveling, cooking, and volunteering.