5 Warning Signs of a Serious Company Culture Problem

In a previous post on company culture, we presented proof that a high culture score is directly linked to company financial performance.

But that springs a question: how can you tell your company is doing well on the culture? One way of looking at it, is being watchful for indications of culture problems. Mind you, we're not taking about a toxic company culture. That should be easy enough to spot. No, we're talking about companies that might have a culture or core values program, but still are unaware of a serious problem.

Here are five signs your company may need a culture makeover. By themselves, none of them should get you worried. But the more you recognize, the more you should consider that you do have a problem at hand.

1. Corporate silos are omnipresent
Unless you are in the farming business, silos are a bad thing. For people to create great work, information should flow freely across units. People should know how their work affects others and act accordingly. Collaboration puts the company above units and teams above the self.
Unless you are in the farming business, silos are a bad thing.
Units playing games or blaming others for failed initiatives or managers withholding information from others, should tip you off.

2. Inauthentic leadership
In the end, people follow people. Strategic plans and budgets are fine, but it is the leader as a human being that inspires people. Leaders must say - and do - the right things. Walk the talk, because actions speak louder than words.

Do the people in your organization believe and trust leaders at all levels? Be aware if you hear people regularly questioning leader's motivations or behaviours.
3. Behaviours are never labelled as cultural issues
Peter Drucker said the famous words "Culture eats strategy for breakfast".  It means alignment of strategy and culture is critical for success.

Many would agree that strategy isn't easy, especially in our VUCA world. But you know what? Neither is culture! Culture is soft as butter when you want to describe it, but hard as concrete when you want to change it. So, it should be part of an open conversation.

From board to floor, leaders should talk about cultural issues. If culture is only a good news show on the digital signage screens and wall posters, you have a problem.

Culture has a profound impact on risk taking, on innovation, on creativity. Leader must sometimes express concern about culture and how it shapes behaviour. If not, culture does not run deep enough.

To win markets, to move products and make money, culture is to be translated in behaviour you want to grow.
4. Communication is lacking
A big indicator for the vitality of your culture is communication. In a technological world, it is easier than ever for companies to clearly communicate. But announcement and messages pushed to people are insufficient.

People must feel they know the 'real' truth of the current situation and what the future holds. They want to understand the vision and feel valued for their contribution.

Technology can't replace the human touch. Face-to-face conversations remain as important as ever. Opportunities for meaningful two-way talk. When left out, people grow nervous and fearful. Gossip accelerates and wild stories spread about the future.

The question is: do you see managers engaging in meaningful conversations with their teams about the change, how they will address it and where it will lead to?
5. Finally, the vibe is all wrong
Trust your gut feeling. You can see and hear a positive corporate culture. Do you feel the energy of people tapping their keyboard, of passionate exchanges in a meeting, of laughter across desks? As a visitor, it takes only a few minutes at the reception desk and walking through an open office to get a feel about a company culture. The next day you're walking into in the building, be mindful and tune into your instinct. What does it say?
So, what do you think?
You are doing all right? Super! I'm happy for you.

Not doing so great? Sorry to hear it. If cultural repair interests you, you might want to consult our blog Culture transformation: 11 Lessons learned from 11 top consultancies.

Koen Schreurs
Motivation & Recognition Expert








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HR News: 5 Warning Signs of a Serious Company Culture Problem
5 Warning Signs of a Serious Company Culture Problem
HR News
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