Working for any corporation or even in the halls of academia means one will deal with the parent organization’s Culture. Culture is often described as the mission, worldview and values found within members of the body. No matter how benevolent management’s motto, the true goal of any business is to turn a profit. Corporate values have to revolve around keeping your organization profitable or tomorrow will result in bankruptcy. Making money is a more complex than just an idea or a value driven goal though. Leadership and toil towards a common goal is necessary. The drive towards profits can be cruel if human weaknesses like greed are unchecked. How individuals treat each other within a profit framework is a reflection of the culture. Cultures can be divided simply into positive and negative.
How people interact with each other comes from the top. Since corporations are not democracies, leaders set the tone on culture. This cuts both ways, in positive and negative fashions. In most cases, the direction is positive enabling necessary initiatives like safety and the efficient use of employees’ time. Poor management gives the converse results with a Negative Culture detracting from productivity. Unpleasant, toxic work environment is a poor outcome management would like to avoid. All organizations are a mixture of both positive and negative influences. It can be generally stated that a culture fits into a positive or negative camp.
Tell-tale signs of a negative culture reveal itself in a multi-faceted manner with these common traits:
1) Silo effect – The silo effect is when individual groups and even single employees are isolated from other inside groups. Information is not shared across functional areas making simple tasks often difficult. Employees have no idea what is going on within the corporation. The old mushroom joke comes into play here. One is treated like a mushroom, kept in the dark and fed a lot of manure.
2) Mistrust – Being isolated from your colleagues without any information about the day-to-day functions will often breed mistrust. This leads to inter-group hostility then in-fighting. Energy is wasted in proxy battles instead of directed toward productivity.
3) Inefficient labor – Managers that want to get ahead are forced to play a devious game. The best way to do this is get onto the better side of there direct manager by using labor to fulfill their supervisor’s desire no matter how wasteful. Tasks that should have top priority are ignored for busy work. Little significant work gets done. Another inefficient labor practice is hiring too many people as a grandstanding political statement, “Hey, look at all of the people I manage.”
4) FEAR – The culmination of the above three signs is fear. Chronic fear makes employees extremely insecure. People only do enough to keep their jobs with no further incentive. Loyalty also quickly vanishes. Short term thinking dominates the workforce as survival. Unnecessary terminations and constant layoffs result in a culture of terror.
Positive culture is in sharp contrast to the negative and has similar tell-tale signs:
1) Respect – When I mean respect, it is in the sense that employees are also people with lives outside the business. Reasonable accommodations are given to the employees for personal life events like family, rest and personal tragedies. It is an unwritten code that employees will complete work without intimidation.
2) Transparency – Information required that an employee needs is readily available and accessible. Decisions concerning employment and operations within divisions is transmitted is an open, non-hostile manner.
3) Investment – Businesses that invest within themselves are going the long run. Investment includes training, equipment and long term strategic thinking. Paying industry competitive, appropriate wages also leads to a good workforce. Promoting employees according to ability and planning proper succession are outstanding investments.
4) Organization based outlook – Employees across all levels in the organization are free to contribute ideas to the common good of the organization. This is not only rewarded but encouraged without ideas being stolen. Besides being recognized with simple material rewards, they also gain the satisfaction of giving to a greater cause.
This list is a basic outline for anyone who will work for any organization to recognize before employment. Working for a company with a positive culture will boost your career while the opposite will occur with a negative culture. Identifying these characteristics in the interview stages before accepting a position is a topic for another essay.