What Is Your Business Culture Like?

If you were to conduct a 360-degree evaluation of your business, what words would your employees, vendors, service providers, and clients use to describe your firm’s organizational culture? Empowering? Supportive? Welcoming? Responsive? Or, controlling? Micromanaging? Hierarchical? Toxic?

When it comes to key interpersonal success factors—such as communication, trust, loyalty, respect—organizational culture trumps policies, pronouncements and good intentions every time. A negative organizational culture erodes morale, undermines trust, and unravels the threads that hold working relationships together. Over time, it can cost you your best employees, clients, and the goodwill of vendors and service providers.

Establishing a positive, productive business culture starts with leadership. You’re probably familiar with the expression “walk the talk.” As the leader of the firm, you not only have to follow the same rules you set for others, you have to model the business behavior you want in your employees. If you are rude, dismissive, uncommunicative, unavailable, or domineering, you are implicitly giving your employees license to be so as well.

In the same vein, nothing undermines organizational culture as fast as having double standards or treating some employees differently from others. When employees perceive that some individuals have the opportunity to receive benefits, rewards or favors that others don’t, they lose their incentive to do a good job, become resentful, and question whether the firm really does value them.

Likewise, when bosses, managers, supervisors or team leaders believe they are entitled to perks not specified in the firm’s compensation and benefits policies, or bend the rules for their own convenience, they are acknowledging an unspoken two-tiered system of the privileged and the non-privileged. This sends the message that position, not performance or merit, is what gets rewarded, which leads to disengagement and breaks down loyalty and trust.

A healthy organizational culture is one that allows employees to thrive, that respects and values clients, and that builds strong positive relationships with vendors and service providers. It acknowledges the need for authority and direction, but treats all employees fairly, equally and justly. It establishes and abides by clear policies and procedures, including those for compensation, benefits and rewards. It is one whose leaders “walk the talk” and whose employees want to follow in their footsteps.

Another blog post that is excellent to refer to when working with your team is Making Tough Decisions.

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Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting

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