Friday, July 01, 2016

The Awkwardness Of Imposed Work Culture

As part of the current job environment, we are going through a "Culture Change". Apparently The Powers That Exist have decided the culture that was here when they arrived was not conducive to the way they wished to redirect the company.  And so, we getting a culture makeover.

Not that I can successfully say no to their opinion.  The previous culture, the one that existed the first 5 years that was here, was abysmal.  Very top down, very argumentative, very looking for people to blame, very stuck on the privilege of executives to overrule.  No tears to be shed over that.

But the make over is all wrong.

The only way I can explain it is imposed culture.  Suddenly we have this team and that team.  Suddenly we have fancy whiteboards and more "cozy" places to meet each other.  Suddenly we are very concerned about the goings on in other locations right across the parking lot.  Suddenly we hear a great deal about making sure people are being used to the best of their interests and abilities.

It is all reasonable, of course.  It just does not seem real to me.

Culture is something that develops organically, not something that is imposed from another source.  That can happen of course (as it is here) but then one ends up with two cultures:  the official culture (the one posted on the website for recruiting purposes) and the actual culture, the one that lives on in cubes and work areas.  They can be quite different with their own sets of rules.

The official culture lives on, of course, and every employee will nominally adhere to it lest they be singled out.  But often such adherence seems to be lip service, the minimum we need to get by.  Change key personnel or executive management and the official cultures lapses, sometimes towards the actual culture - the one where most people live and spend their working lives.

It is awkward not only for the foreignness of it but also for the ambassadors for it. There is usually a sense that this "must" be adopted.  It can be said in the nicest of ways and with a great many incentives, but the bottom line is the same.  Everyone else knows what is going on.  Maybe the ambassadors do as well - but if so, they hide it well.

Am I advocating never changing corporate culture?  Not at all.  As I indicated above, some need to be changed and this is only done by individuals.  But the changes, to be successful, need to spring from  the actual culture (or at least be adapted from them) to truly take root and be adopted - otherwise, like a transplanted organ, they may be rejected at the first sign that they can be rejected.

Do you wish to make a different corporate culture?  By all means, make it - but make it in such a way that people engage in it, not suffer through it.

The alternative?  To have a corporate culture that will end up be a mile wide and an inch deep, ready to give way at the first sign of stress or opportunity.

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