culture employee engagement

Culture Problem

How to Know When Your Company’s Problems Lie in Corporate Culture

There is a pervasive feeling among your managers that their frontline employees aren’t invested in the company’s goals and objectives. Your office empties at 5:00 p.m. and doesn’t fill again until 9:00 a.m. the next day. People trickle into meetings five or ten minutes late and don’t seem enthused to contribute. Few employees volunteer for projects that require effort beyond their core responsibilities. In short, there is a general malaise in your organization that seems impervious to any countervailing efforts.

Additionally, the organization appears destined to struggle with a significant amount of absenteeism and presenteeism among staff. Neither threats of punishment, financial incentives, or employee recognition seem to have much impact on productivity. In fact, a small number of employees even seem to purposely sabotage organizational initiatives. Worse yet, the most productive employees have been leaving in droves.

Are you hiring the wrong employees?

More likely, your employees are exhibiting symptoms of disengagement driven by a workplace culture that has deflated initiative, morale, and any hope of people working anywhere near their full capacity. Here are the five signs to leadership that your corporate culture is contributing to your company’s problems.

  1. You believe in a carrot and stick approach to employees – The days of bosses convincing subordinates to work hard by dangling incentives while threatening punishment fled with bell bottoms. Negative motivational tactics are remarkably corrosive to the human spirit and prevent organizations from achieving peak performance. People work hard because they are inspired to learn and grow personally and collaborate with teammates to achieve meaningful successes for the enterprise. Negative conditions such as hierarchical and punitive management can impel human behavior temporarily, but they create relational and emotional toxicity that prevents employees from reaching their full potential.
  2. You’ve never just stopped and chatted with an employee – Brain science tells us that all humans crave validation—i.e., simple acknowledgement of their presence. When CEOs and other leaders pass up opportunities to learn employees’ names and small details of their lives, they fail to establish the relational bonds that can inspire a host of positive behaviors and lead to productivity and profit.
  3. You view employees as possessions rather than as people – Employees are your key constituents with whom managers must build human relationships based on trust and appreciation. A positive approach to leadership triggers emotions that increase mental capacity, allowing employees to think more clearly and creatively and act in ways that boost productivity.
  4. You believe management sets the strategy and employees execute it – Great ideas are not the sole domain of senior leadership: they can come from anyone— frontline workers, middle managers, volunteers, vendors, competitors, customers or even the general public. Being receptive to the ideas of staff and customers indicates to them that you recognize their value and deepens the bond between them and the company.
  5. You flit from one employee satisfaction approach to another  People require consistency in the workplace. Hopscotching from one failed employee satisfaction regimen to another—not even realizing that enduring engagement, not ephemeral satisfaction, should be your goal—undermines staff’s ability to trust their relationship with the organization.

Sabotage, poor performance and turnover are not the causes of your company’s problems; they are symptoms of a corporate culture that fails to promote trust and emotional security among the staff. To reverse these behaviors, senior leadership needs to make a commitment to developing a culture based on empirically validated theories of human behavior that value employees and build social networks.

My firm – the Leadership Academy, trains management of organizations large and small using empirically validated research on why people do what they do at work.

Key Takeaways:

  • Problems in the workplace like lateness, absenteeism, poor performance and high turnover are generally symptoms of a poor workplace culture.
  • Negative motivational tactics are counterproductive.
  • People crave validation and recognition, so a culture that offers neither will struggle to achieve high performance.
  • Relationships inside a workplace are the key to its culture.
  • To promote positive behaviors in the workplace, develop a culture that nurtures human emotions.

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