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Do the Math: Negative Company Culture = Unhappy Employees

Rita Perea is president and CEO of Rita Perea Leadership Consulting Associates

When speaking to business leaders, the question I ask is “Was your company’s culture created by design or by default?”

I pose this question to evoke the realization that if a company is not being deliberate about designing and building the desired culture of the organization, then it is being created by default.

Employee engagement photo for blog post

Company culture is all around. It consists of the accomplishments and activities that are celebrated, reinforced and rewarded deliberately as well as unconsciously. The culture of an organization matters. How can you expect to retain your high performers and attract more like them if your company culture is less than sparkling?  

Along with managing the attraction and retention of great employees, companies also have to manage their brand as an employer.

Ms. or Mr. Business Leader, have you ever stopped to ask yourself how people outside of your company describe your organization?

What is your company’s reputation?
Is it a good company or a bad company to work for?
What makes it good or bad?
Are your employees happy or unhappy at their jobs? 
Do you, as a leader, value what every single employee contributes to the effort or do you exude an attitude of “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out?” 

We all know about the reputation of the company that people refer to as “The Cult.” This organization is run by a heavy-handed self-promoting owner.

This is a culture of rewards and punishments. In this organization people are expected and encouraged to work very long hours. Having a personal life outside of work is discouraged. The culture demands that, like the life of an alcoholic revolving around a drink, the lives of employees should revolve around their job.

Work-life balance is not valued. People are viewed as only widgets, a means to an end, as evidenced by the obscene pay disparity. You can imagine that the turnover rate at “The Cult” is high. Once the get in the door, the mission of top talent is to get out before they burn out.  

Another company that has a less-than-stellar reputation for a nasty culture is known as “The Cauldron.” In this organization, whispered gossip and character assassinations are fostered. “Stirring the pot” is unconsciously encouraged among employees through inappropriate humor with certain “problem” individuals becoming targets. 

Significant changes in the organization occur without employee warning or knowledge.  This keeps employees “off balance” and in fear. In addition to high staff turnover, there is also a high level of absence due to illness, both continually decreasing productivity.  Employees feel defeated and afraid. This culture is clearly unable to attract and retain high-performers.  When prospective top talent gets a whiff of the stinky cauldron, they run in the opposite direction. 

What can be done internally to change a company’s culture and enhance it’s brand to attract top talent?

The 30,000 foot answer sounds simplistic but it takes making the Golden Rule, “treat others as you wish to be treated”, well, golden.  Every minute of every day with every interaction, this becomes the mantra, the heartbeat of the organization.  Treat others as you wish to be treated. Learn that, model that, be that, live that... let it ooze from your pores. 

At the very core of a company whose cornerstone is the golden rule, is an organization built upon respect. Respect is the bedrock of productivity and stability. 

Everything else - the mission statements, employee handbooks, policies, procedures and decisions- are then deliberately crafted to design the desired workplace culture while looking through the lens of the golden rule.

Things shift and behaviors become aligned.  People begin to feel valued, not as machines just being used for capitalistic pursuits and then tossed aside, but as human beings respected for their contributions. Engaged and balanced employees attract other happy and engaged employees.

Isn’t that the kind of culture in a workplace that we want and deserve?

Let’s give it a try... If we all started to treat others as we wish to be treated, what a difference it would make - not only our workplaces, but also in our world.

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