How to Save a Negative Company Culture
JoshTolan | Business, Leadership| By
You might have started out with the best of intentions, but somewhere along the way your company culture took a nosedive. Now your employees are sneaking into work late, grumpy, and disengaged. Worst of all, you know some of your top talent is now actively looking for greener pastures.
Now is the time to act — before your best workers apply for other positions, take to social media to connect with new employers, or record a video resume. While it can be all too easy for your company culture to turn negative, there are still ways to turn the atmosphere around and get workers excited about coming into the office every day.
Change the Attitudes of Your Office Leaders
Changing your company culture for the better will often necessitate removing your rosy glasses in regards to your employees and your leadership. You might have lofty ideals about your company values and hope your employees will be motivated by your mission statement. But most likely, the easiest way to change your organizational environment is to convince disengaged workers that their peers are on board with the company culture.
“The inner conformist is stronger than the inner activist,” Columbia University psychologist Michael Morris told The Boston Globe in a story about shifting cultural norms.
In an example used in this same story, Andrew Cruickshank, a researcher at the University of Central Lancashire in the United Kingdom, studied the behavior of English rugby players. When new management took over the team, they wanted to change the players’ hard-partying ways.
They knew a top-down leadership approach would be a tough sell, so instead they focused on changing the ideas and behaviors of a few influencers on the team. These players then influenced their peers to curtail their negative behavior.
This plan can work just as well for your team of office workers as it did for the rugby team. Focus on the most influential members of your company — the employees their peers look to for guidance on how to act. Likely, you’ll find these influencers are disengaged in the workplace, leading the rest of your team to follow suit.
Meet with these people and clearly communicate your organization’s goals and values. Actively listen to their concerns and try your best to address any issues they might have. Offer influencers additional responsibility, educational opportunities, and chances for professional development within the company.
If your influencers become more engaged with the workplace and value their place within your company, they’ll lead the rest of your team into more engagement as well. Your workers want to be part of the pack, not a lone wolf. If the leaders of the pack become more engaged with the company’s messaging and values, the rest of the team will follow suit or risk being left behind.
Hire For Company Culture Fit
Sometimes changing your culture means bringing in fresh talent already aligned with your cultural ideals. In fact, more than ever companies are leaning on culture fit in the hiring process to find workers who can help develop, stabilize, and maintain a specific cultural ideal.
According to a study by Northwestern professor Lauren Rivera, quoted in Bloomberg Businessweek, companies are making hiring decisions more aligned with how people usually select a friend or romantic partner. In these cases, fit is trumping qualifications or specific skills.
The method behind this madness is that companies can always train for skills, but it’s much harder to ingrain company culture fit. Employees who fit into the company culture will be more motivated and engaged in the workplace. As we learned in the last example, the more workers who are engaged in your company culture, the more likely the rest of your workforce is to follow suit.
In the interview process, whether you’re connecting with candidates in person or through online video, make sure to ask specific questions which speak to your company culture. See what their ideal company culture is, find out what they know about your existing environment, and clearly express the values of your workplace. Hiring candidates who fit with your organization’s ideals and values is a great way to change a negative company culture into a more positive one.
Changing a company culture might not be easy, but it’s certainly possible. By understanding your workers just want to fit in, you can use influencers and new hires to motivate employees to emulate a more positive style of engagement.
Save Your Company’s Culture!
What are some ways you can save your company culture? Share in the comments!
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