5 Things to Do to Ruin your Organizational Culture

Are you screwing up your Organizational Culture without even knowing it? You may be if you’re doing any of these 5 things!

Company Culture
Employee Experience
Employer Branding

Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Tuesday, September 01, 2015


We get it: organizational culture is important, so why are we still talking about it?

One simple reason: because we still aren’t getting it right! Try as we may, having an awesome organizational culture that’s supposed to do a whole bunch of fabulous things for our employees and bottom line keeps on eluding us.

So instead of talking about what you should do to improve organizational culture, I decided to take on a different approach.

With that, allow me to present to you 5 things to do to ruin your organizational culture!

1. Not knowing what your culture actually is

A sure way to completely screw something up – not knowing what you’re supposed to be doing to begin with.

Do you really, really know what your company’s culture is? Does everyone else know what your culture stands for? Do you all agree on what you think your culture is all about?

If the answer is “no” to any one of these questions, then I’m sorry to tell you that you are well on your way to screwing up your organizational culture!

Know it, understand it, live it, breathe it, and most importantly, communicate it!

2. Promoting an organizational culture that simply doesn’t fit

And there are two things to consider here when talking about organizational culture fit, and each one is more important than the other!

a) Employee-fit

Think having a weekly 5-a-7, a fridge full of beer, and a pool table will make your organizational culture the best in town? It may be… to some people.

If your company is mainly comprised of younger employees and new graduates, then promoting this type of culture could very well be gold. But let’s face it, do you think employees with families and children want to spend their after-work-hours having a drink with you? Maybe they would… occasionally but you can definitely bank on the fact that they would prefer spending their precious time with their children more often than not.

And it’s not just about age or children. Besides, organizational culture is SO much more than office activities. It’s the values, thoughts, behaviors, and overall “social and psychological environment”.

If your work and business is incredibly structured and by-the-book, then innovative and adaptable employees will just feel suffocated. And if your company is all about change, adaptability, and innovation, then a traditional employee will just feel so incredibly out-of-place.

Point being: make sure there’s a good fit between your employees and your organizational culture. (Don’t know how to do that? Consider a fit assessment!)

b) Brand-fit

Let’s say you are a financial advisor who works in a company that manages millions and millions of its clients’ dollars. Your organization’s business relies heavily on their reputation of being trustworthy, reliable, sound, competent, and capable. And guess what, a client wouldn’t exactly be too keen on seeing a guy in shorts with a drink in his hand handling their money, would they?

On the other side of the spectrum, B2C companies that make a lot of their money because they are viewed as fun, approachable, relatable, and easy-going, probably don’t want to see people in stuffy suits with briefcases.

There’s no right or wrong here. You can do whatever you want, as long as you promote and display a culture that fits your brand and what it’s trying to represent.

3. Don’t hire for culture

Tell me if this sounds familiar: You have a job opening and stumble upon what seems to be the world’s best candidate. She has the right education and experience, she was lovely during the interview, and gave all the right answers. Next thing you know your mouth is uttering the words “when can you start?!”

You’re super proud of yourself for finding the perfect candidate and can’t wait to show everyone what she can do. But that’s not what actually happens.

A short while later, the candidate’s manager comes to you and says: “she was good, but she just wasn’t a good fit.”

How many time have you heard that? Probably more often that you would’ve liked!

Not hiring for culture can screw up yours in one of two ways:

  1. If you already have a healthy organizational culture, then introducing individuals who don’t fit or compliment the values, mission, attitudes, and approaches can very well destabilize the work environment.
  2. If the culture at your organization isn’t at the level it should be, then you can be sure that it won’t be getting better anytime soon if you don’t hire people to encourage that culture.

Don’t hire for cultural and guarantee yourself more than a few headaches!

4. Give Zero recognition

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Want to screw up your organizational culture? Don’t acknowledge employee’s awesome attempts at promoting it. Don’t reinforce their fantastic efforts at living and encouraging your company’s values. Don’t give recognition to employees demonstrating the behaviors needed for your organization’s success.

Now that is a fantastic recipe for disaster, wouldn’t you agree?

5. Make sure Upper-Management doesn’t care about Organizational Culture

This one is fool-proof!

And it’s not just organizational culture. If you want to screw anything up at your organization, just make sure you don’t get the care and support of upper-management. That will definitely do the trick.

Let’s face it, if you saw that there’s a new initiative going around the office, you’re going to think “okay cool, but I don’t really think it applies to me”. But consider how you would feel about it when you see your Directors and Executives promoting, encouraging, and even taking part in this new initiative. Wouldn’t you be more inclined to think: “hey, this seems pretty important if the even the top-managers are doing it”?

Organizational culture is a delicate and precious thing. Getting it just right is a tremendous challenge, and it’s oh-so easy to absolutely screw it up! But once you actually get there and realize all the benefits a healthy organizational culture can have on your business, how you ever managed to function without it is going to boggle your mind!

Does your organizational culture need a helping hand? Check out this employee fit assessment.

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