Broken Windows Culture Theory

Are there any “broken windows” in your organization?


Culture is a unique aspect of your organization that cannot be replicated. Within a healthy organizational culture, employees thrive, collaborate and achieve. However, if a culture is “broken” and there is no intentional leadership to repair it, the “Broken Windows” theory explains that the tendency is for employees to actually add to the damage – not improve it.

As Director of Training and Development and Learning with the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, Jeff Hargett shares the theory of “Broken Windows” as it applies to organizational culture.

In this theory, Jeff highlights that our natural societal response to something that is left unattended and broken is to add to the destruction. But what if instead, we chose to repair it?

The “Broken Windows” theory relates to the impact leaders can have on organizational culture by choosing to admit and repair the mistakes that our leadership and/or our team members have made, instead of ignoring them and allowing them to continue to splinter. With this approach, leaders can develop an extraordinary organizational culture that is focused on cooperation, performance and success.

Does your organizational culture need repair? Discover if the “Broken Windows” theory can be applied to your team.

If things are in chaos already, change is lots more difficult. But if there's a structure in place, change is easier.

If you take a building, an empty building, and a few windows are broken out, it's obvious that the building is not occupied. In theory, it leads to more people breaking more windows because now there's not really a concern, there's nobody occupying the building, so what really doesn't matter.

So we start with people breaking a few more windows, and then a few more people break a few more windows. Ultimately, homeless people start going and squatting inside the building and they build a fire inside the building and it burns to the ground. All this was because there was really no respect or no care about the building.

But if there are a couple of broken windows in the building and we repair those windows and we keep them repaired, there's a less likelihood that people will want to destroy something that could be inhabitable. So the theory is that if we, even from an employee perspective in a business, if an employee joins an organization and things are not going well, employees are shirking their responsibilities and things aren't happening and nobody's doing anything about it, there's the tendency, then, if the theory plays out, there's the tendency that those new employees will join that bandwagon and do the same thing that they see going on around them. Versus if the leader goes in when something is a mistake, and we talked about the fact that if a mistake happens we want to address it immediately.

If we address it immediately and we repair that broken window, there's less likelihood for the other employees or the new employees that join the team to do things in an incorrect way. They want to be part of something that's successful. They don't want to come into a chaotic mess.

Jeff Hargett

As an internationally recognized presenter and advisor, Mr. Jeff Hargett has shared the culture and philosophy of The Ritz-Carlton with over 20,000 professionals. He has almost two decades of service with The Ritz-Carlton and has held...

Take Action

Complete the following Action Items to put the insights in this video into practice,
and share them with your team to continue your leadership growth.

Perfect your new leadership skills every day with these exclusive Leadercast exercises, available to Subscribers! Click here to become a Subscriber.

Liquid error: No such template 'platform/programs/search-modal'