7 Threats to a Positive Company Culture

warning sign of the danger of not having a positive company culture

A Positive Company Culture is Worth It
It takes constant clarity, effort and perseverance to shape and maintain a positive company culture for your people and your business.  But it’s worth it.

  • According to a Harvard Business School report, an effective culture can account for up to half of the differential in performance between organizations in the same business.
  • Our own organizational alignment research shows that cultural factors account for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of revenue growth, profitability, customer retention, leadership effectiveness, and employee engagement

Successful organizations and leaders understand and leverage their positive corporate culture to win the talent war and to outperform their competition.

If You’ve Got It, Keep It
Let’s say you’ve worked hard to improve your culture to the point where you can be proud of how things truly get done in your organization. The known and unspoken values and assumptions that drive key business practices and behaviors are in sync with the high values you hold dear and with the strategic direction you are heading.

We know that company cultures, regardless of their strength, progress and change over time.  So it is your challenge to see that your positive company culture stays aligned with your strategy, and your talent, keeps true to your high standards of behavior and continues to be that critical variable that can set you apart from the competition.

7 Threats to a Positive Company Culture
Here are seven of the most common threats to a positive company culture – the pollutants that can undermine what you worked so hard to build:

1. Gossip
You should not allow secret whispers about anyone behind their back. When there are honest disagreements or important issues to discuss, they should be addressed openly and respectfully. Otherwise you sabotage the atmosphere of trust that is the foundation of the collaboration, innovation, and decisiveness required to succeed.

Do what it takes to have open and honest conversations so that important feelings and issues do not fester.

2. Low or Unclear Performance Standards
Do not accept behavior that is sub-standard from anyone, including yourself. The minute your team sees that you overlook mediocre results or inappropriate behavior, high performance expectations lose their influence and team morale can sink.

Clearly define and stick to relevant, fair, and meaningful standards of success and failure to protect what matters most in your positive company culture.

3. Emails as Preferred Communication
Sure, technology is a great time saver and emails can be a good way to track conversations and connect. But not at the exclusion of face-to-face conversations.  There is so much that cannot be communicated in an email – body language and empathy for example – and once in print your email thoughts cannot be retracted or easily changed.

Foster strong interpersonal relationships and meaningful one-on-one connections across the company.

4. Empty or Disproportionate Praise
We all appreciate being recognized for a job well done. However, praise that is not earned or specific has little value.  In fact, it can undermine a team’s discretionary effort.  Be sure that you give proportionate credit only where it’s due and in enough detail to show that you were really paying attention.

Make sure that you proportionately reward and recognize what matters most at your company.

5. Ineffective or Infrequent Feedback
Employees look to leaders for feedback that will help them improve their performance and fulfill their career aspirations. Negative or ineffective feedback is counterproductive.  Keep the objective of constructive feedback in mind – performance improvement and continuous learning.

Everyone should know where they stand and what is required to get where they want to go.

6. Pointing the Finger
You may know who is to blame for the latest snafu, but it often does little good to point fingers. It is better in most instances to accept mistakes as part of a continuous improvement process and to work with people to help ensure that it doesn’t happen again.  Your team will appreciate that you shoulder the responsibility as a leader and demonstrate that you have their back.

Are people afraid to make mistakes at your company?

7. Explicit or Implied Threats
It should go without saying that dominating employees through threats and fear tactics is toxic. But some insecure leaders or those under stress resort to this kind of behavior.  While threats may get short-term tactical results, the long-term negative impact on organizational health, employee engagement, and alignment can be deadly.

Weed out bullies early and often to protect your company’s cultural health and well-being.

The Bottom Line
A company culture matters – a lot.  Once you’ve achieved it, stay vigilant and see that you are not guilty of any of the top threats that can derail a positive company culture.

To understand the three components required to build a positive company culture to outperform your peers, download The 3 Must-Have Levels of a High Performance Culture

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