Most often leaders do not consciously create or intend on shaping a corporate work culture that winds up constraining or restricting organizational growth, in fact most leaders who are faced with the daunting task of taking on transforming the organizational culture have no real idea how they got to the place of dysfunction or unworkability in the first place. Reasonable leaders want to point to a person or a situation as the culprit, however in reality, it is typically a series of unfortunate events, coupled with Ego driven, inward focused behavior that takes an organization off track. Many leaders of growing organizations are often so busy working in the business and making the business successful, they miss the signs that a destructive culture is brewing or has been unintentionally shaped. Ultimately, it is the insidious, quick slivers of unworkable behavior that are created, tolerated and / or ignored in organizations that winds up thwarting the Executive’s strategic intentions and derails the overarching organizational vision. Executives, Leaders and Managers that buy into the 5 Double Edge Sword philosophies without actively connecting the dots to productive workplace behavior all too often wind up with organizations that promote and perpetuate the very behaviors that are incongruent with their core values and get in the way of accomplishing the mission.
Winning is an incredibly powerful motivator. The desire to win can move mountains and bring in profits, however, when the need to win overwrites better judgement, fragments and erodes core values, runs over people, and leads people to the brink of exhaustion Inside competitive work cultures, members are often expected to operate in a “win-lose” framework, outperform peers, and work against (rather than with) their coworkers. What begins with a healthy race to win in the marketplace often erodes into unproductive dog-eat-dog internal workplace behavior. This once healthy desire to “beat the competition” turns the organization inward and it begins to compete with itself. Winning at all costs, as value shows up in your organization by people arguing for win/lose scenarios, in-fighting for power, control, rewards, promotions and resources. In power-driven organizations, hierarchy reigns and members of the management team are expected to take charge, control subordinates, and yield to the demands of superiors.
Historically, Command and Control has been the ‘right’ way to lead and for many decades it actually worked. This model is flawed, however, and those managed by people who admire and enjoy this model atrophy and stagnate. In workplace cultures where Command and Control type of behavior is rewarded; the powerful take over and the powerless surrender. When leaders and team members are expected and even encouraged to power up over others, people in the organization often view themselves as pawns in the micromanagement chess game, or simply as cogs in the organizational profit wheel. They lose motivation and initiative and give less of their discretionary time to make the organization better. Commanding and controlling is a vicious cycle, and the only way out is to call it out, and inspire a new way to lead and a new way to follow. In oppositional workplace cultures there is often a root of overcoming obstacles that afforded the organization sustainability and success over years. however what often got us here will not get us there; and opposition is one of those elements of culture that turns the organization outside in and eats itself alive.
In work cultures where members are expected to be critical, oppose ideas of others, and make safe decisions, people are almost always grappling with a belief that they will be shot down before they even make their pitch. Opposition shows up in communication such as, “Yes, but,” “We already tried that and it failed,” “I have been here for years and I know it won’t work,” and “No, because.”. While everyone ought to be singing from the same organizational hymnal, members of the organization spend far too much time navigating personalities and conflict than collaborating and solving problems.
Leaders of quality-driven organizations who pride themselves with a commitment to excellence. all too often reward the unconscious underlying behaviors of perfection. In a culture of perfection, people do not take risks, they do not try new things, and they almost certainly do not put themselves or their reputation on the line to color outside the lines. Leaders of organizations often stake their reputations on delivering excellence or superior service.but the subtle difference between standing for quality and being in pursuit of perfection is often to subtle to see. Perfection leaves very little room for creativity in your organization.
In perfectionist corporate cultures, curiosity is stifled and looking good is the primary focus, mistakes are hidden, learning is mitigated, and ultimately growth is constrained. In an environment where perfection is celebrated and rewarded, conventionality emerges as a safe bet for staying out of the boss’ cross hairs. In a work environment that prioritizes perfectionism, members are expected to conform follow the rules and make a good impression, and the byproduct of making a good impression and following the rules is that creativity and risk-taking are thwarted and innovation becomes impossible.
Complacency is often the result of oppositional corporate cultures, when resistance to change is tolerated, the resistance and the opposition become blockers to progress, Toleration and or silence in response to resistance is most often interpreted as agreement with the resistance. Everyone who is anyone in business understands the need to cooperate with others in the workplace and the need for teamwork and collaboration. However, creating a work culture where everyone has to be liked and everyone has to get along leads to over-the-top consensus building, perceived favoritism, inconsistent accountability and a very destructive fear of conflict.
In a work culture where needing approval is a core component of how the organization works, team members are expected to agree with, gain the approval of and be liked by others; this leads to inauthenticity, withholding and back channeling. Work cultures that over emphasis fitting in and being liked dissuade original thinking and disagreement, and people are encouraged to go along with the crowd—even when the crowd is prepared to drive off a cliff. When team members fear conflict, even constructive conflict, they are incapable of engaging in debates or openly voicing opinions. When team members avoid conflict, they also avoid speaking up against bad decisions thus leading to inferior organizational results. It‘s imperative to understand that “keeping the peace” workplace cultures can be insidious, and potentially rob the organization of courage, engagement, innovation and synchronicity.
To find out how KeenAlignment can help you optimize your organizational culture, contact us for a free consultation today!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Magi Graziano, as seen on NBC, is the CEO of Conscious Hiring® and Development, a speaker, employee recruitment and engagement expert and author of The Wealth of Talent. Through her expansive knowledge and captivating presentations, Magi provides her customers with actionable, practical ideas to maximize their effectiveness and ability to create high-performing teams. With more than 20 years’ experience as a top producer in the Recruitment and Search industry, she empowers and enables leaders to bring transformational thinking to the day-to-day operation.