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Is it Possible to Reinvent Your Company Culture?

In Company Culture — by Dave Anderson


Culture might not bring on new customers or increase share value but it’s one of the most important assets a company can have. It’s crucial to create a comfortable environment for employees so they can do their best work.

There are really two components to company culture. There are the defined values your company lives by. The five or so buzzwords or uplifting points employees learn on their first day.

And then there is the general tone of the workplace. The way managers interact with subordinates. The attire people wear. The overall social vibe of the company.

Changing company values is easy. But reinventing the intangible atmosphere in the workplace takes more work. However, it can be done – and must be done, in some cases.

When it’s time for a culture shakeup

We’ve all had bad jobs and heard horror stories from our friends and family members. A negative culture that allowed for poor behavior is often the main theme in these stories.

Bad culture comes in different forms. Here are some examples of toxic company cultures that need to be overhauled:

A culture that is based only on results

Many companies have only recently realized the role culture plays in hiring and retaining top talent. Plenty of others still see the employee-employer relationship as strictly transactional. But the “I pay you to do a job and nothing else matters” approach is not only cold-hearted. It’s just a bad way to run a business. Employees get burned out and move onto better opportunities. The company is then forced to hire and train new people who will also feel underappreciated and eventually say “enough.”

A culture that just happened and wasn’t actively created

Not all founders have a cultural vision when they start their company. Sometimes a group of friends or former colleagues start working together and there is no need to define a culture. Everyone already knows each other and has a rapport.

But as new people join the company, they form their own idea of what the culture is. They pass it onto the next generation of employees who tweak it based on their own observations. Eventually, everyone has their own hazy version of culture when they need a clear definition from the leadership team.

An immature culture that needs to grow up

As cool startups run by millennials have boomed, so too have stories about offices that sound more like frat houses than serious places of business. Many young founders, who lack both business and life experience, prioritize having fun at work.

Having fun is fine but there is no room for sophomoric behavior in the workplace. Day drinking, getting to the office at 11 and other lax work standards are bad looks for a company growing out of the startup phase. Immature cultures must evolve and put business success ahead of good times.

An “old boys club” culture

While some company cultures need to grow up, others need to get with the times. Some long-established companies have biased cultures that fuel favoritism in the workplace.

These types of cultures can lead to numerous problems, including a lack of diversity in the leadership team, gender pay disparity and a lot of hurt feelings throughout the company. It also hinders business success since employees are rewarded based on factors other than aptitude and experience.

Reinventing your company culture is possible. But it’s a lot of work.

If you see your company’s culture in any of the examples above, it’s time for change. It will take a long time and a lot of work but it must be done for the good of your employees and company.

First, let your staff know the culture is changing. Tell them what behaviors and attitudes have to go but accept ideas for what the new culture should be. Culture is ultimately for your employees and they can tell you what it takes to create a positive and supportive workplace.

Once you have a new culture defined, boldly share it with your employees. Don’t be vague and gloss over the topic or you’ll encounter more problems down the road. Reiterate what the previous issues were and share the new cultural direction for the company.

As the dust settles, most your employees will appreciate your new culture. But others naturally benefited from or enjoyed the way things were. Let those employees move on if they can’t accept the change. You can always find people who do great work and embrace a positive atmosphere in the workplace.

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