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Home Leadership & Management Improving Workplace Culture Requires Understanding It

Improving Workplace Culture Requires Understanding It

You always hear people talking about “toxic” workplace cultures, but what does this really mean? As a company grows in size it starts to take on a life of its own, which means so does the culture. Understanding the different types of cultures that exist is an important element of awareness that must be recognized if the environment is to be shifted in a positive, production direction. Many times, the established culture is multifaceted, blending a few styles under one roof.

So what are some of the common types of environments that we’ve created in the workplace?

The Silo

The Silo culture, also known as the silo mentality, is when several departments or groups within an organization intentionally, or sometimes unintentionally, do not share relevant information with their peers. The issue of the silo mentality is not new, and in fact, it’s been discussed in many a board room for the past forty years. Silos, if not recognized and changed, will destroy productivity, stifle innovation and ultimately drain the life out of your team.

So what are a few signs that your organization may be working in a silo?

  1. Redundancy – When teams or employees are not communicating workflows, we often see redundancy in the work that creates an inefficient use of time and skills.
  2. Dangerous Groupthink – Psychology Today says groupthink occurs “when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation. At this point, constructive disagreements stop occurring, very little gets challenged and innovation and problem-solving grind to a halt.  Basically, everybody becomes a YES person with no meaningful opinion of his or her own. Team members become afraid to disagree and that becomes the norm.
  3. A Lack of Collaboration – This occurs simply because team members aren’t pulled together to work on a key initiative that will impact several internal stakeholders within the organization. A great example of this is when a multi-location restaurant decided to create a new menu. The R&D department started creating new menu items, leaving out the finance department and the marketing department. Why is this important? Collaborating along the way with the finance department helps establish costing and profit margins to ensure the new menu items make sense for their customers. Collaborating along the way with the marketing department will allow for a review of what menu items already sell well, ensuring the R&D department does not kill off profitable, high selling items.

Lacking Accountability

Companies that fail to drive individual accountability as part of their overall culture run the risk of creating low-performance teams and seeing a reduction in productivity. Unfortunately, we live and work in a society where personal accountability is on the decline, so ensuring workplace accountability can be an uphill battle. Leaders must develop the skills and processes necessary to create workplace accountability and develop a roadmap to manage the path.

There are five components to establishing a workplace with accountability.

  1. Employee Engagement – The Business dictionary defines Employee Engagement as the emotional connection an employee feels toward the company. The existence of this connection, or the absence of it, will govern their level of effort, productivity, and their feelings toward the company. Survey data from Gallup tell us only 29% of employees are engaged. This means 2 out of every 3 employees are flying along on autopilot each day. When a leader knows how to increase employee engagement, the culture of ownership and accountability will begin.
  2. Training – Employers should take the time to invest in their employees by ensuring each employee is properly trained for the job they are expected to do. Failure to establish a proper training protocol creates another opportunity for accountability to be overlooked and a blame game to follow between employees.
  3. Defined Performance Expectations – An employee that works and is unclear on the full set of expectations is being set up for failure. It is not unusual for workplaces to have vague, inconsistent or undefined expectations. Defining expectations clearly will eliminate excuses and the “I didn’t know” defense.
  4. Continuous Feedback Loop – The concept of the annual review is an outdated approach to managing employees. Managers and leaders need to develop effective one-on-one relationships with their employees and be prepared to invest the time into giving them regular feedback and guidance. The tone of the conversation should be focused on a collaborative effort to improve performance. Employees should always know where they stand in the eyes of their manager and know they are meeting the defined expectations.
  5. Recognition – Compensation is important but recognition and praise are also powerful motivators. Everyone wants to feel valued for his or her work and there are several creative ways to build recognition programs that will show employees he or she are valued.

Micro Management

By definition, micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes or controls the work of subordinates or employees. If you have to micro-manage an employee, do you really need them? Or is the manager micro-managing because they have control issues? Either way, there are a handful of dangers that will flow from this mindset.

  1. Lack of Autonomy – Many people in the workforce today want, and expect, some level of autonomy in how they do their job. When employees lose their autonomy, they will slowly stop thinking outside of the box, and they will lose the will to do anything other than what the manager demands.
  2. Dependent employees – Once employees get used to being micro-managed, they stop thinking for themselves. Now the employee will come to the manager for everything, ultimately stifling creativity and de-valuing what they were originally hired for (their skill, intelligence, and insights).
  3. Increased Employee Turnover – For the employers that track employee turnover as a metric, they will see an increase in turnover where micro-management drives the culture. Employees will quit when they’ve finally had enough of the environment. The process of having to hire and train new employees is expensive. Increased turnover drives up those costs.
  4. Management Burnout – Micromanaging requires a manager to do their job, plus keep their nose in the details of everything their employee is doing. There are just not enough hours in the day to do this. Additionally, a manager that spreads themselves that thin runs the risk of under performing across all levels.

Takeaway: It takes well focused, dedicated leaders to create workplace cultures that support growth, productivity and results. Managing the culture of an organization is an endeavor that must stay front of mind and continuously be reviewed, adjusted and improved upon.


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