Posted by: drewdice | April 23, 2014

Bad Culture trumps Great Employee – Every Time!

I’ve long been a believer in the philosophy that culture trumps strategy (you’ll enjoy this article on the subject).

This is not to say that organizations and leaders do not need a clear, concise and winning strategy – I do feel strongly that clarity, focus and a well aligned strategy paves a good path towards growth. The two complement each other like chocolate and peanut butter.

Similarly, company culture and talent strategy should go hand-in-hand.

Signs of a bad/toxic culture include:
– Turf wars and frequent internal politics
– Silence = agreement. In unhealthy environments, silence often means that individuals are concealing their opinions, and are waiting to express those views until after a meeting or conversation has ended. (Can you believe John actually said that???!) (That idea is going to tank! I can’t believe they are going to launch that new product. This is going to fail, big time!) This often creates wasted time, confusion, distractions, and silos or political factions. To address this, leaders could adopt the mentality that silence = disagreement, and that everyone needs to verbally weigh in before a topic is ended or meeting adjourned (Pat Lencioni is a great reference for this concept)
– No clear definition of success or what is most important right now (a running joke in some companies is that if you ask two senior leaders what is most important, you’ll get three different answers)
– High regrettable turnover

Understanding these factors is part of the equation. Knowing how to fix these issues (and, how to avoid them, at all) is equally important. The punch line for this post, though, is that if an organization has the above characteristics, it is not only impacting current employees and customers, but also crippling potential growth for the firm.

Great employees leave. Period. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but they do. Meaningful work is important. Having ‘best friends’ at work is also important. Having an impact is important. Amidst the toxicity of an unhealthy culture, though, it just doesn’t matter. I can assure you of one of the following outcomes, and none is ideal:

– Great employee leaves the firm
– Great employees stays at the firm, her attitude is converted, and she becomes part of the toxic culture
– Great employee stays at the firm, keeps her great attitude, but has limited positive impact, due to the environmental factors in the organization

Consider that research shows the cost of turnover can easily reach six figures (accounting for salary, benefits, training time, lost opportunities, recruiting fees), not to mention the cost to company morale, stress for workers who have to pick up extra workload.

As leaders, we need to do better. Need help determining where to start? Help is here.


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