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Stop it! How to stop the behaviour that can kill a company culture

October 12, 2017 by Jackie Lauer

There are thousands of tips for things you can start to do to improve your company or team culture. Sometimes, the most important thing you can do is to stop the behaviours that are dragging everything down.

“Stop, Start, Continue” is a useful tool that managers have relied on for decades to provide feedback that goes beyond vague platitudes or criticism. It recognizes that to improve, each of us has to start doing new things, continue with the good things we’re already doing, and stop doing the things that are really getting on everyone’s nerves.

Consider if you’re guilty of any of these culture-killing moves, and if you are, cut it out.

Avoiding conflict instead of dealing with issues

Have you ever work for a company that has a long convoluted dress code? It’s usually in place because a manager didn’t have the courage to deal with a specific issue, so instead a broad policy is enacted affects everyone. That’s a small example.

Avoiding conflict usually involves turning a blind eye to bad behaviour or poor performance. If you partake in avoiding conflict, you’re also avoiding being a leader. An inevitable part of being a leader means getting your hands dirty to tackle tough issues. It’s not a fun part of the role, but if handled with tact and grace, it will make the workplace better for everyone.

Empowering bullies

Avoiding conflict is the perfect way to empower a bully. If their behaviour goes unchecked, it won’t change.

Sometimes, bullies are deliberately empowered. This takes the talented jerk scenario one step further. Talented jerks are often tolerated because they have a specific skill to offer.

Empowering a bully can also be about putting someone in charge to do the dirty work. If the leader would rather avoid conflict, they may perceive a bully as the best person to take care of difficult situations for them, perhaps even allowing the leader to maintain the reputation as a “great guy”. Here’s a hint, a bully is the worst person to deal with conflict.

Ignoring complaints about a leader’s approach or promoting someone who has a bad reputation sends a strong message to employees: “I don’t care if he makes your life miserable if he makes my job easier.” In the end, the talented people will either become unproductive, or they’ll leave for a better work environment.

Talk about balance but model the opposite

If you talk a lot about work life balance but are emailing team members at 8:00 pm with urgent requests, you’re killing your culture. Even if you tell your team that you don’t expect them to answer until the next day, no one believes you.

On a similar note, take your vacations. Employees are less likely to feel comfortable taking time off work or are less likely to relax while on vacation if the management team is always on.

Employees take their cues from their management team. If you’re sincere about work life balance, lead the way.

Give empty rewards

Giving recognition to someone for doing an excellent job is a cornerstone of employee engagement. A simple thank you goes a long way. Formal recognition is also a great way to publicly acknowledge their contribution. If your company recognizes employees, that’s an excellent start.

Now, don’t ruin it. Don’t give empty rewards that make people think, “Why bother?” Don’t make an hourly employee take unpaid time off work to attend an award ceremony. Don’t give someone a plaque and tell them they can’t take it home or make them pay for a copy. If an individual or small team worked to do something amazing, don’t ignore their achievements in favour of recognizing the entire team. There’s a time and a place for team recognition, and sometimes it’s about congratulating one or two people for doing something amazing.

Rewarding just the outcomes

Outcomes are great – and they are key to a business’ success, but if you want to improve your company or team’s culture, you also have to reward the behaviours that lead to great outcomes.

If your company has a stated set of values or attributes, be sure to find ways to reward people for striving to live those values. Although it may not lead immediately to a closed sale or outstanding result each and every time, it will pay off in the long run.

Changing the goal lines

It’s always good to push your team to be high performers but don’t burn them out. If your team was able to pull off a minor miracle to get a project done or come in on budget, don’t punish their excellent performance by providing them less time and less money for future projects. You’ll only set them up for failure.

Acting entitled

As mentioned before, as a leader, you are modeling behaviour. If your command is to “do as I say and not as I do”, congratulations, you’re a culture killer.

Hot-headed bosses who reprimand employees for any emotion in the office are a prime example of how not to behave. Too often a boss who swears and has outbursts will be the very first one to decide an employee is unprofessional replicating that same behaviour.

If you want a calm, cool office, you better be the first one to keep your head in a crisis. Never say it’s ok for a leader to behave a certain way because “She’s the boss, and she makes the rules”.

Get started by stopping

If you sincerely want to improve the culture of your organization, start with yourself. Take a hard look at your behaviour, and, if you lead a team of leaders, check their behaviour too. Model the way to earn employees’ trust and confidence as a first step to building

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