I know most of you reading this are going to say, "Is she kidding? Of course people want to work for me/our company." If this were true, then why you are not on the list for the best places to work, have candidates knocking down the door, or current employees referring their network? If, on the other hand, all of this is happening in your world, then perhaps you'd like to stop here; if not, keep reading…
It comes up in every conversation with a client: I'm told that "we have a great culture, product and/or service, and our clients love us." However, when I dig deeper, their answers are mundane and no longer relevant to today's culture. I have a client that, during their crunch time, employees work their tails off, but the CEO doesn't think to acknowledge the long hours and their dedication to the work. He thinks that their paycheck is enough and that "they don't have to like me."
While they don't have to like him, I truly believe that everyone needs to respect him -- and they don't. Culture isn't about pizza parties and foosball, nor do the Millennials we are hiring think a good job is just about the paycheck and insurance benefits. Most people want to feel like their work is contributing to the greater good and that they are recognized and appreciated. People want their workplaces to be fun, not miserably stressful, given how many hours of their lives they will spend there.
These are the top 10 signs of a dysfunctional workplace:
- Frequent employee turnover
- Lack of appreciation
- Back-biting gossip
- CEO has favorites (i.e., there are cliques)
- Poor training
- Dictatorship management style -- "my way or the highway"
- People taking credit for the work of others
- No sharing of ideas
- Pointing fingers of blame
- It's all about the bottom line
If you suspect any of the above behaviors are happening in your office, you're most likely in cultural distress. Typically, companies that don't have a healthy culture have difficulty growing, because they are constantly losing people, and the lack of employee trust is time wasted and debilitating to the bottom line.
Here are some of the behaviors that I've recently encountered:
Out of touch
I have a client, I'll call her Samantha. Samantha doesn't understand why people don't stay at her company longer than a year. After spending about a week in her offices observing the culture, the first thing I noticed is that she spends most of her time in her office. The only time she ventured out was to get coffee, for bathroom breaks, and to go to meetings outside the office.
Thinking that culture starts at the top of the organization, I notice that the employees didn't leave their desks either. There didn't seem to be any collaboration, socializing -- even smiling seemed out of the question. And by the way, they had wine and pizza every Friday, Monday morning status meetings, etc., but her team was lacking vision and, quite frankly, energy.
I believe that Samantha is an extremely smart and capable woman who is under a lot of pressure from the parent company to double the bottom line, but she didn't realize that the lack of interaction stymied growth in her company. I recommended that she take a walk at least three times around the office: morning, afternoon, and evening. That collaboration and recognition feed directly into culture, which leads to growth and profits. I also suggested that Friday pizza was a bit outdated and perhaps Friday at 5 p.m. isn't the best time! Samantha isn't a crazy, demanding boss, but she was out of touch with her staff.
When I started working with Bob, the CEO of a small, 50-person marketing company, he proudly told me that every person reports to him. I asked, "What do you mean? Everyone reports directly to you?" Bob has his hand in every detail of the company. Nothing goes out without his approval, and often, instead of delegating, he winds up doing something himself because it would take too much time to teach someone else. It's not that Bob doesn't want to grow his business -- he does -- but he is not perceiving his management style as limiting. Not to mention his team feels neither valuable nor accountable. Bob is a tough nut to crack, so I'm still working on helping him recognize his behavior. If anyone has any suggestions, please send them to me.
My way or the highway
What can I say about this management style that hasn't been said before? If you want smart people to work with and for you, then you have to respect that they will walk in the door with their own experiences, values, and ideas. If you are not interested in a grown-up with passion and a brain, then hire a newbie (not that newbies don't have brains and passion). However, my client Charles, who is truly brilliant and can run every part of his business solo, can't allow for new ideas, because his process works. His biggest problem, not unlike Bob mentioned above, is that he can run every part of the business. Maybe he doesn't need fresh ideas in his company, perhaps the process really is perfect -- however, what he has created is a stifling environment, and that was not his intention. I recommended that he views the process as the company process and that everyone can contribute to improving the bottom line. Recently, Charles has started a "town meeting" every month so that he gives his employees the forum to express their creativity. He still insists that his process is the best strategy, but at least he's starting to open the door to improving his employee morale.
Little or no direction
Carol is an entrepreneur who is president and co-founder of a small market research firm. She is positively charming, smart, and running at 100 miles per hour, seven days a week. The problem is that she has not sat with her team to show them the "how" and "why" of what her clients expect from the company. She assumes that they know what to do from their prior experiences; however, when it came time to meet the client, you-know-what hit the fan. Her director and manager on the account were drowning and not up to speed, and certainly didn't understand the nuances of presenting the "Carol way." The client was a bit more forgiving then either Carol and -- for that matter -- the team. Both the director and manager were demoralized, because they truly want to do the best job and please both Carol and the client. In Carol's case, she really assumed that people get up to speed on their own and while sometimes that does happen, don't assume. Take the time to teach and you'll be thrilled with the results.
What do employees want from their company's leadership?
Recently, I attended a Brand Activation Association conference, and I decided to interview the people at the table and ask them their opinion on great places to work. What they had to say reflected both my research and my professional experience:
…empowers: People want to feel that what they do actually matters.
…gives access to information: People want to share best practices and information. They want assessments on how they are doing.
…is transparent: Even if the information is negative, people want to know why decisions are made, layoffs happen, budgets get cut, etc.
…is dedicated to developing skills: Such as mentoring, exchanging ideas, and giving projects to people who want to develop.
…encourages people to work together.
…works towards a greater good.
Perhaps we need to think about our leadership style. Does it foster growth, is the team engaged, and will we grow together? Is this a fun place to work? And can we articulate why candidates will be appreciated and want to knock on the door?
People do want to get paid for their work, but not at the expense of work satisfaction. We spend most of our day at work, so make it a great place.
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