What Companies Don't Get About Corporate Culture

What Companies Don't Get About Corporate Culture
From Recruiter - March 17, 2017

Article by Ted Bauer

Corporate culture has been a major topic of discussion over the past few yearsprobably for different reasons than you think. Now, however, we might have arrived at a tipping point. One of the most popular articles on Fast Company right now, for example, is entitled Two Big Reasons Why Work Culture Is Overrated. A couple of similar articles are making the rounds as well. Ill discuss one of them below, but first, I think we need to understand a little bit more about what corporate culture reallyis.

Corporate Culture Is, Essentially, a Buzzword

I very much believe in many of the ideas surrounding corporate culture, but the term itself is a buzzword.

Corporate culture is likeSupreme Court Justice Potter Stewarts famous pornography definition: You know it when you see it. You cant explain it to others. You get a job, you work there, you interact with people, and you see the culture.

Corporate culture evolves relative to hiring decisions the company makes, market conditions, office space, etc. Its fluid. You cant say We have a good culture! or We have a hard-working culture! There are no fixed attributes. Corporate cultures change and grow all the time.

That isone reason why company culture is a buzzword.

Another reason is that, to many peoplespecifically executives of companiescorporate culture is fluffy bullsh*t. Executivescame up on margins, growth, revenue plays, and looking at the financials. Many of them view corporate culture as some crap that millennials are demanding. Ugh, they grouse, totally forgetting that they were the same way in their 20s. We love to make breathless generalizations about generations, but were often wrong when we do.

For executives, topics like corporate culture and employee engagement are leadership hacks. Give em free waffles and you can pay em less. Let em leave at 2 P.M. some Fridays and, again, you can pay em less. (They better be answering their emails until midnight, though!)

Corporate culture can sound like a good thing, but to the highest levels of decision-makers, it is mostly a consultant-driven scam to keep money in their pockets.

The Invisible Side of Corporate Culture

People always claim that employees leave managers, not jobs. Thats mostly true, butgood people leave good managers, too! And thats bad for your company. So having good managers is a great idea, right? But it does come with aninvisible, darker side.

So does corporate culture. The Harvard Business Review article The Dark Side Of High Employee Engagementgets to that dark side in this paragraph:

Although many studies show that people with positive mindsets tend to have more ideas, most leaders find that real innovation and change requires a restlessness and dissatisfaction with the status quo to drive people forward in a purposeful way. When it comes to engagement, it is possible that proud and motivated workers resist new ways of doing things because change seems counterintuitive, or even heretic, to them. In line, research shows that people who are optimistic about their performance stop trying to get better whereas frustrated and dissatisfied people tend to find creative breakthroughs when incentivized and supported in the right way. Thus the danger for leaders is that an engaged workforce becomes complacent or arrogant if it isnt self-critical enough. Unsurprisingly, the last 30 years have been littered with companies that were deeply proud of what they were doing but not dissatisfied or paranoid enough to stay ahead of the competitionNokia, Kodak, and Yahoo! are just a few examples. Needless to say, progress is generally driven by people who reject the status quo and are dissatisfied enough to seek to change it.

Complacent or arrogant is a good pull quotethere. If you think about the worst people youve ever worked with, chances are some of them fall into those two buckets.

Corporate Culture: The Fork in the Road

Now, were at a crucial intersection:

- People want to work in good, productive examples of corporate culture.

- Bosses dont really care and just want to make money for themselves.

- But bosses need to recruit and hire people, because God knows they dont want to drive the actual work.

- So, bosses need this corporate culture to get the right people (A-players, LOL)


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