Employees form the core of every organization. They take the company forward and help it grow. To do that, they need a healthy, inclusive, and diverse organizational culture. Building a culture is not easy, but it is achievable if you know the right fit of organizational culture for your business.
This article will guide you through the real examples of organizational cultures, types of organizational culture, how to recognize toxic company culture, and actionable steps to tackle such a culture.
What is Organizational Culture?
Culture is how organizations do things. The repeated patterns of behavior of an organization epitomize its core values. They include a combination of norms, rules, rituals, and values that serve as a ‘glue’ and bind the organization together.
In a way, culture is a social control system. Behaviors that go in alignment with the organization’s thought process are encouraged and rewarded but the ones that are against being reprimanded. The existing norms are usually there for a reason because managers and founders believe that they bring the organization forward.
Examples of Organizational Culture
Companies around the world have been focusing on creating a positive work environment for their employees. Here are 4 such exemplary companies:
Google’s business culture is flexible, fun, and open. Employees are encouraged to come up with new ideas and build something on those ideas. Google provides flexible working hours and has an excellent work from home policy even before the coronavirus swept the world. Google’s offices are enshrined with fun things like nap pods, ping pong tables, video games, etc.
Google promotes collaboration and has a program called ‘Googler to Googler’ where employees coach each other. Google has created a sense of community in its workplaces. As a result, it is among the most profitable companies in the world.
Adobe invests in its employees well. Like Google, it has also created a sense of community in the organization. Any staff member that wants to pursue a new idea can get a red cardboard box with a $1,000 prepaid card, stationery, snacks, etc. The ‘Kickstart box’ exemplifies the fact that Adobe champions innovation by fostering the creativity of its employees.
Adobe has created a reliable team of highly motivated employees. Among other things, every employee gets holiday pay, medical insurance, education reimbursement, etc. Lastly, Adobe focuses on inclusivity and diversity in the workforce and actively recruits employees and interns from around the globe.
Zappos was among the first large companies to have an open office floor plan with no corner offices. Employees are actively encouraged to make the workplace their own by adorning it with their pictures, posters, etc.
Zappos believes in providing its employees with complete freedom. They give a chance to their employees to pursue their ideas. Additionally, It provides a long leash to its employees to follow their ideas and create something out of them. Lastly, it does not belittle or fire employees for failing. Failing is considered a natural part of life.
Why Organizational Culture is Important?
Here is why you should focus on building a robust organizational culture:
Increase in Employee Engagement
Organizations with a great culture often see an increase in employee engagement. When employees feel valued and their ideas are accepted, they get positively engaged with their work. Lastly, organizations driven by a purpose and clear objectives create the perfect environment for their employees to thrive. As a result, employees often want their organization to succeed as well.
Employee turnover happens for a variety of reasons. Keeping salaries aside, employees are motivated to keep their jobs when connected to their workplace. A great way to create that connection is to focus on creating an inclusive and positive company culture. Such a culture reduces employee turnover.
A company’s organizational culture can often enhance its public image. For example, most people have heard how great companies like Google, Facebook treat their employees. People make assumptions about the company judging by their organizational culture. Moreover, customers want to be associated with a company that has an excellent company culture.
Employees perform at their best when a positive business culture supports them. Employees grow and learn every day when their ideas are appreciated and considered when making decisions. When they are provided with constructive criticism; and appreciated for their hard work. Not only that, good performers know their worth and don’t like to work in a hostile work environment. As a result, companies with a negative work environment lose out on top performers.
New employees are not acquainted with the work culture. Companies need to slowly familiarize themselves with the practices and cultural norms of the company. Great company culture will always focus on effective onboarding their employees to have an easier time in a new workplace. Moreover, employees can start contributing from the get-go if they are given the proper training during the onboarding process.
Robert E. Quinn and Kim S. Cameron from the University of Michigan studied the qualities that make an organization effective. The researchers identified two key components:
- Internal focus and integration vs. External focus and differentiation
- Flexibility and discretion vs. Stability and control
What are the four types of organizational culture?
A business culture that focuses on people and builds a community like a workplace has a clan culture. In organizations like these, communication is key, and every individual is a valued person in the community. Additionally, there is a horizontal structure in place and the barrier between superiors and subordinates is absent. Lastly, workplaces like these are quite flexible and can adapt to the dynamic world easily.
Organizational cultures that value flexibility and the ability to adapt to change follow adhocracy culture. They are risk-taking workplaces that constantly want to innovate and pursue new ideas. Therefore, risk-taking comes with the package. These organizations want their employees to express their ideas and visions and take their company forward. Additionally, they value their employees and want them to be proactive in their work. Workplaces with a business culture like this want individuals to think out of the box.
Organizations that focus on profitability follow a market culture. The hierarchy in the workplace, communication channels, and business decisions are all planned to keep in mind the main objective of the business i.e. profit. In these organizations, employees are often separated by their managers. Additionally, employees communicate by following the hierarchy. These businesses often keep the result in mind and focus on external success rather than building a community or internal satisfaction.
A business culture that follows the traditional corporate structure is known as ‘Hierarchy culture’. Companies with this type of business culture have a rigid chain of command and various tiers of management. These businesses are risk-averse and prefer to have stability and control.
How to Recognize Toxic Company Culture?
Bullying, abuse, harassment, etc., are all obvious characteristics of toxic work culture. However, many toxic cultural traits lurk beneath the surface, and you only see them when things have gotten out of hand. Here are some characteristics of toxic company culture:
When there’s a lack of communication in the organization, people try to fill in the gaps by using their best guesses. This leads to a lot of gossiping, which might derail your efforts and cause harm to the organizational culture. For example, people might make judgments about other people based on false rumors, leading to friction and weakened interpersonal relationships.
Absenteeism and Turnover
There’s no dearth of opportunity for talented and hardworking people anymore. People prefer to work in a positive work environment. So, if you see a significant turnover, toxic company culture could be the reason for it. Moreover, absenteeism usually precedes turnover. When you see frequent absenteeism amongst your employees, you should take action before it turns into a turnover.
No risk-taking is one of the most important characteristics of toxic work culture. Leaders that punish or reprimand employees when things don’t pan out create an organizational culture where employees are afraid to pursue their ideas. This impedes innovation and leads to stagnancy.
Emphasis on Corporate Hierarchies and Traditional Norms
To maintain stability and control in the organization, many organizations go overboard on hierarchies, rules, and policies. Leaders exert power through authority. A short-term solution like this has long-term negative consequences.
Negative Energy or a Lack Thereof
A work culture that sucks the energy right out of the employees is toxic. The lack of energy in the organization results in inefficiency and hinders innovation.
Leaders who think that only they have the acumen and skills to take the company forward start micromanaging things. Delegation is essential for an organization to thrive. Leaders need to have faith in their employees.
No Pushback From Employees
A healthy work environment promotes dissent up to a level. It is healthy for superiors and subordinates to debate on decisions, policies, and otherwise. In a toxic work culture, employees do not show dissent against the management, which can have disastrous effects. Even a decision that looks bad on its face would remain unchallenged and cause harm to the company.
Actionable Changes to Tackle Toxic Company Culture
Understand the Toxic Culture
You must find out what’s working and what’s not. Here are some things to understand before you start taking action:
- Figure out what toxic cultures are present in the company (gossiping, no risk-taking, etc.).
- What is bringing toxicity into the workplace?
- Leadership gaps.
- Is everyone being treated fairly?
- Are there any impediments to employees in terms of their growth and advancement?
Change the System
You can do many immediate things to assure employees that you will not tolerate toxic work culture.
Fire problematic people even if they are top performers. People that embody the toxic culture of a company will not let you change things. Moreover, firing these people sends the message that you have no tolerance for toxicity.
Change the traditional symbols of toxicity. For example, if your organization was keen on following hierarchies and company policies strictly, change that. You can start an open-office policy where employees can talk to senior-level managers directly. Get rid of old habits and start afresh.
Actively Communicate and Encourage Employees
Effective communication is the key to tackling toxic work culture. You need to actively promote the organization’s goals and shortcomings and invite employees to share their apprehensions. To hear feedback from employees, you can do a company-wide survey. Moreover, don’t keep important information from employees. They know when something is up. If they don’t hear it from you, they will try and guess things, leading to constant gossiping.
Encourage Disagreement and Dissent
To have meaningful dialogue, you need to encourage disagreement and dissent in the organization. An employee will not be disagreeable unless he has solid grounds. Employees know and understand the work they do and can have great inputs on decision-making. They could save you from making a bad decision.
Back Your Employees
Organizations need their employees to pursue their ideas. Employees that fear leaders will not take the initiative. When leaders punish employees for pursuing their ideas, it sets a bad example. Therefore, you need to back your employees through thick and thin.
Empower Your Mid-Level Manager
The mid-level managers know and understand the employees that work underneath them. You should empower them to communicate with their teams and involve them in decision-making. Moreover, do not micromanage things and trust your managers to do their job well.
Organizational culture is the key for businesses. If they want to survive and thrive in a dynamic and competitive world, they have to make their culture healthy and inclusive. Different organizations need a different approach to creating a healthy work environment.