Recognize This! – Cultures don’t fail overnight. There are
many signs along the way that can save your culture if you only take the
time to see them.
I write often about company culture – the importance of culture, how to proactively manage your culture, how to measure your culture – but I’ve never written about signs you company culture is in dire need of correction and how to do it. So today, here are
SIGN 1: Someone could get hurt if they stand too close to the door at 4:30.
Regular readers know the New York Times “Corner Office” column is one of my perennial favorites. In this recent column, Tracy Streckenbach, president and chief operating officer of Innovative Global Brands, explains this sign of a bad culture:
“It’s really bad when you have a clock-watcher culture. I
did some consulting work for one company where you could get hurt if
you were near any exit at 4:30. You had the feeling they were literally
waiting for the bell to ring.”
Tracy goes on to offer excellent advice on what do to instead. (And no, adding a ping-pong table isn’t the answer).
“You want to create an environment where people want to
be at work. I lived through that whole Internet craze where you couldn’t
hire people fast enough. During those days, you thought of culture as
Ping-Pong tables and disco balls. Now I think the big focus on culture,
particularly in a down economy, is on how you get people invested so
that they care about what they’re doing and feel like they have a hand
in things. The only way you can do that is if you have very clearly
defined and measurable goals. Then you make sure each and every
department knows them, and how their work will support the overall
The best way to ensure every employee knows the goals and how to achieve them is through frequent, timely and specific recognition for their contributions towards achieving the goals.
SIGN 2: Your best attempt to fix a bad work environment is to list worse environments.
If, when your company is ranked the worst company to work for, this
is the best you can say, then you know your culture problem starts at
“The lowest scoring company on the list was Denver, CO-based Dish Network. In an article in the Denver Post, Dish CEO Joe Clayton is quoted as saying, ‘I’ve worked in lots of worse places – this isn’t one of them.’”
Chris Edmonds pointed to this story in his Cool Culture blog,
a favorite of mine. When employees are telling you there’s a real
problem, you as the leader must listen. Sadly, this response is more
common. “Helping” employees see how they could have it so much worse
isn’t a strong motivational technique.
Instead, leaders who are lucky enough to get this kind of detailed
feedback would be well advised to act upon it. Change what you can, and
set a plan in place to change the rest over time. Communicate these
efforts and goals to all employees. Then communicate it again. And
SIGN 3: It takes a jury verdict to force you to implement necessary management training.
The Respectful Workplace
blog (another favorite) pointed to a jury verdict that not only found
for $3.5 million in damages for harassment at work, but took the extra
step to outline – in detail – non-harassment training programs the
defendant must implement as part of the “damages” rewarded to plaintiff.
If it takes a jury of a court of law to tell you to do what should be obvious, your culture needs to be fixed.
What other signs reveal a culture in need of repair?
7 Sep 2012 7:30 PM
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