Negative Corporate Culture

In most workplaces, the only messages that go out, loud and clear, are “all that matters is your work…you’re as good as your last job” Nothing else matter, not you or issues, problems, joys, sorrows, friends or family. It seems a hard thing to digest? Well, as a matter of fact, that’s what the latest surveys are saying about the corporate culture in India. Productivity and nothing else, the only thing that seems to matter, the only thing they are valued for at that job is what they produce. Yes, there may be nice looking motivational posters everywhere, but you still hear an employee snigger “What a joke! Do you really think these guys give a damn about what we feel or how we manage?” Oh yes and let’s not forget the company picnic! After which everyone comes back only to laugh at how some people behaved.

We live in a very negative environment where humor is all about putting someone down. It’s seeped into our corporate culture and someone or the other becomes the butt end of jokes and ridicule. The moment he/she enters a room, eyes connect the occupants and snide smile ripples across the faces. That’s why when someone says “great job!” it startles, even amazes the listeners but brings joy to the receiver. Good words expressed meaningfully are the best motivators.

Thankfully there are people in every organization with the spirit to be happy, content and to spread the joy of an eventful day! Recognizing such people and building on their ambassadorship is a wise management decision. The power to be happy and display the emotion is confined to a few amiable folks. But their power to radiate joy and excitement can be very contagious, in fact so contagious that entire departments and even organizations are known to turn a negative corporate culture into a powerhouse of positivity by the presence of one or more such person/s.  There exists on the opposite end of the spectrum people who are negative about everything even if something has been a success, you will hear “let’s see how long this will last”.

4 Important issues that help to convert a negative environment into a winning one.

  1. Most important accept that your organization has a negative corporate culture.
  2. Discover just how deep the rot has set in, if possible.
  3. Search for the positive bright sparks, in every section/department/team.
  4. Use them as Ambassadors of goodwill and joy.

The first point that is usually the most difficult obstacle to overcome. No leader would like to accept that their organization harbors a negative corporate culture. But they should recognize it if they truly want the organization to stem attrition, make greater progress and keep the individuals happy. It’s not that every organization is negative to the core. There are shades, it’s a question of where you are on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being the least or not at all. The thing is, no one should be telling you whether your organization is negative or not, it’s you the leadership who must find out and to measure what’s your position on that ‘Richter’ scale.

With the current pressure that organizations face in the race to progress and growth, demands from the market place and investors/shareholders, this particular issue often takes a back seat. It is to the detriment of the organization that one can neglect this so important issue. You cannot, I repeat cannot afford to look the other way and rely on your HR to supply you with new talent on a steady basis. The fallacy that the percentage of attrition should be below ‘XYZ’ is the worst fall back POA. Because it does not reflect the importance of positions that need to be filled. If your best ideator/executor has left you and he constitutes a part of only 2% attrition, that’s 2 % too much.

It’s NOT just how many you lose, it’s WHO you lose. Some organizations are known to be overly protective of these key employees but this has a devastating effect on the organization at large. The fallout can be two-fold, one, you spoil your key player and you also upset the next in line. This strategy simply does not work for the organization. You can’t be selective about who you wish to keep and who you are willing to sacrifice. That’s an open declaration that the rest of your organization is dispensable.

There is a simple solution, but it can be implemented only after you have gone through the above mentioned 4 guidelines. Lay your hands on a well-tested easy to use platform that will allow a view of the organization’s members wherever they are located. Importantly what each one does and how they contribute to the cause. Display good performers covering both soft issues and success at the given tasks. Make sure the software allows comments, likes, congratulatory messages, suggestions, ideas, and more. Allow people to experience the vibrancy of the organization across the board. Of course, you should be able to make way for hierarchical access where necessary, especially if you’d like to introduce rewards into the system. This makes for instant gratification and exposes employees to a genuine feel-good factor, where there is a sense of achievement and satisfaction at being recognized.

In such an environment, comradery and mutual respect will be cultivated and will certainly douse the flames of loose talk and negative comments that so destroy the good culture of a successful organization.


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