Stories about cultural problems at major corporations and mega companies have been all over the news lately. The message is clear: Workers today expect to feel satisfaction from their jobs and expect to be appreciated for the long hours they put in. If they don’t, negativity is sure to follow.
Maybe you think your office is safe. Your culture seems fine, you don’t hear your employees complaining and everything seems great. Unfortunately, just because you aren’t making headlines doesn’t mean your office is free of culture issues. Below are five of the biggest corporate culture killers and how you can work to address them today.
- Lack of Intentional Leadership
While some leaders – like the Oregon police chief turned in recently by his own staff for inappropriate behavior – are clearly out of line and some employees feel empowered to take action, a lack of intentional leadership isn’t always so obvious.
In the past, a top-down management style was the norm. Management created rules and policies and workers were expected to fall in line. While that’s still perfectly acceptable, it doesn’t create a positive working environment or culture. Instead, intentional leadership, where leaders focus on creating a positive culture of inclusion, is preferred.
If you’ve been handing down memos and expecting appropriate language, or haven’t recently gauged the culture in your office, now’s the time to take stock. To work toward intentional leadership:
- Run anonymous surveys to find out where your employees stand regarding your leadership skills.
- Start attending regular staff meetings, encouraging openness, listening to what your employees have to say and acting on some suggestions.
- Personally compliment employees for work that’s done well; show appreciation.
- Commit to change.
When leaders decide to make a difference, the rest of the office may follow suit. A few simple changes could correct any brewing office culture clashes.
- Rules Without Purpose or Explanation
A company needs rules to survive; it needs structure. Employees need to understand what is acceptable and what is not. However, there must be room to function without feeling as though an invisible hammer is waiting just around the corner.
Online retail giant Amazon has made headlines lately for failing to grasp this concept. With strict policies, a less-than-appealing environment, forced overtime and employees regularly crying on the job, it seems as though rules became the focus instead of end results.
If you see your own office culture heading in this direction, there’s time to course correct. Take action today by:
- Examining the policies you have in place. Ask why each policy or rule exists and if it seems to be a reasonable expectation.
- Reviewing policies and handbooks with a focus group of employees. Find out how they view each rule and if there’s room to make a change.
- Creating open meeting times where employees can meet to discuss policies that exist, then making changes as necessary.
The workplace is evolving. Large corporations are creating opportunities for flexibility and freedom, rather than buckling down by creating more rules. Where do you stand?
- Conflict vs. Collaboration
You want your employees to strive to do their best. Employees who are motivated are more likely to be productive and to go above and beyond. This is a basic working concept.
Far too often, however, this spirit of motivation turns into a conflict based on competition. When opportunities for advancement are rare, conflict is likely to rise. When a workplace is based solely on competition, negative cultural effects are likely to follow.
To encourage collaboration, even when opportunities for advancement are on the table, think about:
- Getting to know employees and their aspirations. When you know who is looking to advance in various areas, you’ll be better able to scope out potential conflict before it starts.
- Creating opportunities for collaboration on various projects which, based on the knowledge you’ve gained about each employee, keeps those most likely to compete in different sectors.
- Incentivizing and encouraging on an equal level. Rewarding the same handful of employees regularly, while overlooking others, leads to negativity.
- Lack of Advancement Opportunities or Incentives
The potential for career progression is critical. This is especially true for millennial workers; 52 percent of workers cited advancement opportunities as the most attractive quality in a prospective employer. That means opportunities to progress in their careers is more important than a competitive salary, which came in second at 44 percent.
No one wants to be stuck in the same role forever. Take the time to reflect on your own career. How did you make it to the top? What helped you get there? If you saw no potential for progression, would you have kept at it or would negativity have taken over? Your answers probably reflect the feelings of those below you.
If your workplace could use some advancement potential, consider:
- Hiring within when possible and making that possibility clear to current employees.
- Creating programs, like educational opportunities, that encourage employees to better their own chances for advancement.
- Taking the time to listen to the goals of your employees and encouraging them to pursue their dreams.
- Missing Expressed Values
Chances are, you have a mission, vision and values statement. Maybe they’re generic, created when your company came into existence. Maybe they have a purpose, but it’s been lost over time.
Employees are looking for values to hold onto and to make their own during working hours. They want to work with a company they believe in, which also believes in them. If values are lacking, office culture is likely to suffer.
To adjust your company values, or to start expressing them and living them out, look for ways to:
- Express existing values to employees. If they’re posted on a website with no action, they aren’t real for your culture. Make them real by posting them around the office and encouraging managers to live by them.
- Reviewing values at team meetings and encouraging open discussions surrounding the topic.
- Going above and beyond. If you care about your community, set up events that demonstrate it. If you want what’s best for your employees, look for new ways to incorporate flexibility into the workplace.
Values can connect and empower employees. When they’re missing, a positive office culture will likely wilt away as well.
You may not be making headlines, but there’s room for improvement in every corporate culture. Consider the culture killers listed above and rank where you stand. What can you do to improve your workplace’s culture today?
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By Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks, a career blog for professionals seeking happiness and success.