6 Common Misconceptions About Workplace Culture That Are Hurting Your Employee Experience
Building a strong and healthy workplace culture takes time, consistent action, a commitment to communication, transparency, and buy-in from everyone at all layers of the organization. Many organizations believe having a mission, vision and value statement will bring their culture to life. Thus, they remain hands-off with the expectation their employees and formal statements will do the work for them. This is how toxic cultures manifest and spiral out of control resulting in a publicized scandal that destroys a company’s reputation.
Workplace culture needs to be prioritized from the very beginning and worked on every single day. It’s not exclusive to a select few individuals or departments rather to everyone from contract workers, hourly, full-time, entry-level, board members and even the C-suite. Toxic or healthy, a culture sets the tone of how individuals communicate, interact and work as well as the beliefs, behaviors and values they embody.
Here are six common misconceptions companies have about workplace culture that are harming their employee experience.
1. A Fear-Based Culture Creates Instant Results
Fear-based cultures are more common than one may think. Away, a luggage startup, is a perfect example of a company who built their culture on intimidation and fear. As someone who worked for an HR boss who operated on fear-based leadership, my confidence was destroyed and it took a toll on my mental health. This resulted in heightened anxiety, health problems and being scared to ask for help or bring new ideas to the table for fear of being reprimanded.
In a fear-based environment:
- Mistakes are punished and good deeds go unnoticed
- Employees live in fear of whether or not they’ll have a job tomorrow
- Rumors are more credible than what’s communicated by leadership
- Employees are afraid to speak up and tell the truth for fear of retaliation or being ignored
- Management relies on threats and humiliation
- Little to no support from management
- Unclear goals and expectations
Employees who live in fear of being reprimanded are less likely to take risks and be inspired to think out-of-the-box. Consequently, this keeps the company from achieving great outcomes and gaining a competitive edge. Encouraging employees to take risks has a far greater outcome than embodying a fear-based culture.
2. It’s Only About Social Events And Fun Perks
Free food, discounted gym memberships and beer taps don’t make a culture. Jill Sammak, CPC, career coach, shared “if you build a culture around providing free food and recreational activities, you’ll attract people who have a limited set of values-the values that most likely won’t drive results.”
A healthy workplace culture focuses on:
- creating a sense of belonging and a diverse environment
- improving teamwork
- investing in employee development
- empowering employees to bring their whole selves to work
- celebrating differences
- having difficult conversations to bring awareness to tough topics and social issues
- consistent communication
- creating a safe space for employees to feel comfortable speaking up about issues and concerns
3. It Needs To Come From HR Not Leadership
The biggest misconception is that the HR department is in charge of creating and maintaining the workplace culture. While HR plays a significant role, it’s the responsibility of everyone to keep it going. Leadership especially plays a major role in influencing and inspiring others to buy-in. Employees can tell if their commitment is authentic or only empty words.
Furthermore, all culture violators should be held accountable regardless of rank or position. When employees notice that C-suite members are exempt from the same rules and policies in which others are being held accountable, a disconnect is created and loyalty is lost.
4. Culture Doesn’t Require A Lot Of Effort
Creating a culture without involving your employees is just as bad as winging it and hoping it turns out okay. Culture cannot be created artificially and it doesn’t happen overnight. It requires consistent attention, nurturing and evaluating. More importantly, employees need to be included in the process. Otherwise, initiatives and benefits are implemented that don’t make sense for the culture.
Companies invest more than $720 million dollars each year into their culture yet they struggle to achieve a high return on investment. According to The Conference Board, 53% of American workers are unhappy at work. When workers are unhappy they become actively disengaged costing companies between $450–550 billion in lost productivity per year. In addition, they resent their jobs, bring down team morale, engage in rumors and complain to their colleagues.
To prevent wasted time and money, companies should seek feedback from their workers and take the time to learn what they want. Adam Hempenstall, CEO and founder of Better Proposals said “assuming you know what employees want is how companies end up with foosball tables, beer taps and game rooms in their offices” but have unhappy employees because they have poor health insurance and a lack of flexibility.
5. Celebrating Milestones Is A Waste Of Time And Money
The simple act of recognizing and showing appreciation to your workers goes a long way. When employees are appreciated, their happiness at work increases and they’re much more likely to go above and beyond for their employer.
OC Tanner research found
- 79% of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving
- 65% of U.S. workers report they weren’t recognized even once last year
Employers often shy away from celebrating employee wins and milestones because they feel it’s useless. However, doing so empowers workers to be more productive, innovative and inspires them to produce great work. Gallup determined companies who recognize and celebrate employee wins experience
- 50% increased productivity
- 44% higher profits
- 50% higher customer satisfaction
- 13% less employee turnover
Stephanie Gray, communications consultant, stated “employees respond to positive reinforcement. They will test certain behaviors and see what’s rewarded, then mirror the ones that are.” This is how cliques form and favoritism happens. Employees want to be liked and begin mimicking the behaviors of their manager, even if they’re toxic. Gray said “the values or behaviors that are most rewarded come to be the foundation of a company culture, and those who can’t, don’t or don’t want to align with those values leave or mentally check out.”
6. Culture Forms On Its Own From The People Hired
Many companies overlook the importance of hiring until it’s too late and they’re not happy with the culture that transpired. Each individual plays a monumental role in shaping the culture. One wrong hire can poison an entire workplace. Without a strategy, companies risk making unethical, discriminatory and poor hiring decisions.
For this reason, companies should always have a pulse on their hiring practices to make sure there’s no discrimination, unconscious bias or illegal interview questions. Paul French, managing director of Intrinsic Search, said successful companies are constantly reviewing, nurturing, adjusting and working to improve their culture. This is done by redefining goals, improving hiring decisions and addressing cultural misfits.
Putting the responsibility on employees to build a culture is unfair and promotes division. It’s up to HR and the hiring team to ask the right questions to make sure the individual will add to the culture and those who are already employed to invite the new hire in and make them feel welcome.
Originally published by Heidi Lynne Kurter at https://www.forbes.com.