I read with interest an article highlighting an interview with an author of an office culture book and thought I’d share. According to statistics cited in the interview, between 70-80% of employees are actively disengaged at work. Whether they lack the luxury to be able to care about enjoying their work, or they’ve simply been preconditioned to consider their job as a necessary evil, work happiness isn’t even on the radar of most employees.
In my own personal experience in the world of corporate cubicles and office political intrigue, I’ve witnessed more than my share of the following issues in an office environment. Have you?
According to the interview, there are several tell-tale signs of a poor work culture. These are:
- Accentuating the Negative, Foregoing the Positive: Are you always focused on what your people are doing wrong? Micromanaging perhaps? Do you ever sing the praises of your employees when they do great things for the company? Are your employees feeling recognized and rewarded for introducing new operating efficiencies or helping to save the company money? Or are you simply exerting authority through indoctrinating fear of making a mistake into your employees? If so, stop it! Stop it right now. Your culture has to be one of encouragement and empowerment for your people to succeed and to fully tap their own potential. Give strict guidance where necessary, set clear goals, and hold regular evaluations to ensure productivity. Otherwise, give your employees the opportunity to use the talents that you hired them for in the first place.
- Stealing credit where credit isn’t due: This might seem to be the norm in politics, classrooms, etc. these days. Bring that into an office environment, and your talent have one more reason to flee at the first opportunity. This goes to personal motivations (intrinsic vs. extrinsic). This can especially hurt your firm if you have employees that are intrinsically motivated and desire recognition and pride in their work. Allowing credit to get stolen equals the theft of motivation in employees. Of course, if you want to fail at productivity and business in general, eliminate the motivation of your staff.
- Pitting employees against one another: Competition is healthy in business, and sometimes health within the business if it involves fulfilling challenges that push your teams to a rewarding end not just for the company, but for all involved. The wrong kind of competitive atmosphere can breed conflict. Tread lightly.
- Ignoring the value of grassroots ideas from all corners: Some of the smartest leaders in business know the first name and life stories of individuals at the entry level positions in the office. Some make it a point to get to know the secretaries, the janitors and others. Why? Because they can provide valuable insights into the corporate culture, the mood of employees, and more. As for the rest, don’t just listen to the folks with the fancy degrees. Stay open to ideas and ideas will open themselves up to you.
- Giving dead weight a pass, but fire good people without cause: This one is more about showing off than showing competence. This typically happens during transitions, such as times when new managers and leaders are coming into the company. They, or sometimes their bosses, want to show power by finding someone or something to make an example of, thinking that this keeps employees off-balance and snapped to attention. Instead, it just discourages your team. No one wants to work in fear of when the next shoe will drop. Stability is crucial, not just for them, but for the health of your business.
- Chastise the short-timers: Have staffers moving on? Not working out? Or maybe they’ve found a better opportunity for personal growth because they’re tired of reasons 1-5 existing in your corporate culture? One of the typical actions of some toxic leaders is to criticize these people to the rest of the employees. Here’s an example that I’ve personally heard a business “leader” say to a short-timer in their exit interview: “well, this job isn’t for everyone, maybe you just weren’t cut out for it.” Guilt trip much? The better policy is simple. Wish them well, give them a hassle-free exit and let them go. You need to focus on the health of the company. Don’t waste your time on negativity. Get to work finding a quality replacement that can enhance your company and culture so that your firm can move on. Lessen the impact and protect shareholder interests.
- Social Stalking: Raiding the social media accounts of staffers, or snooping/stalking them online is just ridiculous. Do your due diligence BEFORE you hire them, and hire with confidence. Leave personal lives where they remain – personal (unless that personal life is brought into the office and impacting your culture in a negative way).
- Work-Life Balance? Hooey: “You want a friend, pal, get a dog” – Gordon Gekko famously said this in the movie ‘Wall Street’. Harsh! Ever worked in a company that wanted to own your entire time 24/7/365? Ever worked with a firm that made you feel guilty taking a sick day so much so that you just dragged yourself in out of fear of being frowned upon or branded as not 100% all-in for the company? More companies have suffered productivity losses as a result of sick workers getting the rest of their teams sick because they feared staying out and getting well. Yes, your company is on a mission, but make sure everyone has time to recharge so that they can fulfill it.
Happiness at work is critical to not only work productivity and effectiveness, but to family and personal health as well. The responsibility of creating the right culture not only rests with the leadership at the top, but also with every engaged employee up and down the ladder. Choose wisely, and good luck. No matter what your role at your company, you can be part of the problem- or part of the solution.
What culture do you want to promote within your business? At Gavin P. Smith Consulting, I provide coaching and team-building strategies to help you bring out the best in your employees. Let Gavin P. Smith Consulting help you create mindful, cross-cultural and team-oriented leaders within your organization.