Your Negative Culture

Author’s note: this is part of a long blog series on corporate culture.  Feel free to look back on previous blogs to explore previous material on evaluating, changing and establishing your corporate culture within the business context.

From your list of feedback on what others think of your reputation, you have divided them into groups of positives and negatives.

The negatives, or as I call them the “bad stuff,” is what you will need to focus on the most. I suggest you divide this list into what is within your control and what is not.

Some of the concerns may be more about your industry or about regulations that you are required to follow. Maybe your parent company has required procedures that you are, in the short term, unable to change.  Or possibly you are required to follow unpopular government regulations.  An example might be a bank that has pages of federal regulations to follow and also has a holding company to answer to.

Your immediate focus, however, is the parts of the list that you can impact.  This part of the list of “bad stuff” is then further divided into a sub-list:  those things you want to change and those you do not.

For example, maybe a concern is that you are too high priced. If you price is rationally tied to value and to employee compensation, you may want to stay high priced and sell your services based on overall value.

Remember, you cannot change everything about your company culture overnight – or maybe even over your career. It might have taken decades to develop these bad habits so they will not change at the snap of your fingers.

I’d suggest rating the negative reputations and start with the two or three highest priorities. It is at this point you need to engage your management team and solicit their input.  This will require some coaching because some of these negative comments will be within their area of authority.

This conversation will bring many negative issues close to home. For example, you learn your company has a culture of a taskmaster – long hours and hard work.  On your management team is the manager of production who is extremely proud of your company’s ability to crank out your merchandise through long hours and hard work.  What will their reaction be to learn that the pride of his department is seen as a negative?

Or you think everyone loves the casual work atmosphere, but you learn that your culture is seen as a sloppy place to work? While these may be difficult conversations, they must be seen as necessary conversations.

Moses from the Bible again provides a great example of the importance of having these difficult conversations. He knew that the Israelite people being free was better than being left to work in Egypt.  They were God’s people and their future culture was to be free people living in the land of milk and honey.  But on several occasions the Israelites complained to Moses and wanted him to take them back to Egypt.  Change was hard, as was venturing into the unknown.  Moses knew that God would not let them down and that once the change in culture was accomplished, life would be good.

As a manager, all negative reputations must be addressed.  And if this means difficult conversations and personnel changes, then that will be the price of generating an overall positive culture.