Culture change is difficult. Organizations, big or small, have many moving parts, and culture exists in each part of an organization. To succeed, it pays to have a plan, but before you plan, it's helpful to understand how culture takes hold. If you want to be an agent of culture change, keep these four guiding principles in mind.
Unless you are starting it from scratch, your company comes with its own culture already baked in. And that culture is sticky – it can seem intractable. In some instances this works to your favor, such as when good characteristics are there for good. But sticky culture presents challenges. If things like how people are treated, character traits that are, or are not, valued, or internal competition are negatively persistent, you could have a major culture challenge. You can and should work to change any negative aspects of culture, but it takes time, and long-lasting change is incremental. It pays to be patient. Recognize what needs to change for your organization to thrive, make a plan for how it will change, and be the biggest advocate you can for that plan. Enlist the support of others. Promote your plan in private discussions and public forums. And celebrate the small wins.
Negative feedback, passive aggressiveness, and a steady stream of departing employees are all symptoms of something rotten in a workplace culture. For otherwise thoughtful, productive people, a negative workplace culture causes stress, stifles productivity, and communicates that a long-term career in the company is not likely to be possible. When people start to leave the team and productivity starts to slump, acknowledging that something is wrong is an important first step. But then comes the hard part: what do about it.
For the past few years, a wonderful old friend and I have periodically flirted with being more than friends. In this place of middle age where one learns that having a significant other is simultaneously the thing you want and the thing you don’t, this familiar, aggravating, lovely, complicated, captivating friend has been at times a joyful diversion and at times a frustrating detour in my life. A little while ago, he told me he thought I was smart, witty, cute, accomplished and sweet. Nice, right? Or maybe not. It depends on the person sharing the words, the person receiving them, and of course, the overall context.
Topics: Organizational Culture