Culture killers. Every organization has ‘em even though every organization wishes they didn’t. They’re things–sometimes little, sometimes not-so-little–that are like a groin kick to your culture. (Yeah, I just said that.)
Here are three that I hear come up over and over and over again. Does your organization do these? Do you do these?
1. Paying lip service to your people.
Don’t worry. If your organization does this, you’re not alone. It happens all the time. That doesn’t make it OK, though; it makes it an epidemic. Rare are the managers or executives who would answer in the negative when asked if they care about their people. Rarer still is the “Careers” page on a company’s website that doesn’t in some way tout the amazing atmosphere at ABC Corp, great employees at ABC Corp, and opportunities for advancement at ABC Corp. The problem is that too often “amazing” actually means “your average, run-of-the-mill,” “great” actually means…well…no one’s really sure what makes ABC Corp’s employees great in comparison to others, and “opportunities for advancement” actually means that occasionally people quit their jobs, and when that happens, they’ll post those job openings.
That’s paying lip service. You talk like your people are your priority, but in reality, they’re not. You talk like your culture is fantastic and unique, but it’s actually not either of those things. Trouble is, people see through that crap. If they weren’t so scared, you’d see them rolling their eyes when someone says stuff like that. It’s not fooling anyone after a while.
2. “We want your feedback.”
Do you? Do you really, really want their feedback? Employees can tell when you’re serious about getting and using their feedback, and when you’re feeding them a line because you know that’s what you’re supposed to say to your employees. Why do you think employee engagement surveys are such a big deal and continue to be in such high demand? Because everyone knows on some level that you’re supposed to be getting feedback from your employees. But what happens when they give it? Are you quick to nod and smile while they’re talking (assuming you actually sit down as two humans in a room and talk with them instead of always hiding behind a survey) and then breathe a sigh of relief when they leave so you can go back to not actually wanting their feedback? Have you ever demonstrated human vulnerability in those moments and admitted a shortcoming? Have you ever gotten an idea and actually thrown your full weight and influence into helping make something happen for an employee? Even if that thing presented no “win” for you personally?
Employees can tell when you want their feedback, and when you just want them to think you want their feedback. A leader at another organization recently said to me in regards to asking for feedback from employees, “I just wish we’d cut the bull.” Agreed.
3. Leaders who are allowed to be the antithesis of leadership.
Sometimes, for any number of reasons, there are managers and/or executives within an organization who are “allowed” to be…well…just bad. Maybe they’ve been there for too long. Maybe they’re a horrible culture fit and no one’s ever had the stones to do anything about it. Maybe they’ve never had the stones to realize it themselves and move on of their own accord. Maybe there is no discernible culture, so almost anything goes from a leadership perspective. They don’t offer legit feedback and support to their folks, and when they do what they’d call “coaching,” it’s more akin to them scolding a three-year-old child than it is actual coaching and mentoring. They can be rude, consistently arrogant, and often downright selfish. They control too much and give too little. They intimidate others, and they secretly relish doing it.
Good luck. There’s no way your team will ever buy into your pleas for great leadership and healthy culture when you’re allowing that sort of cancer to fester in your organization. They see what’s really going on. You want it to be a great place to work, unless of course that means you might have to make tough decisions or have temporary moments of interpersonal discomfort while addressing the aforementioned anti-leader.
Those are just three. I’m sure you can think of others. Feel free to mention them in the comments section below. I know I’ve heard oodles of others myself. Now do some self and organizational analysis and root out some of those toxic culture killers.