Maria Bashi

Making Sure Company Culture Doesn’t Turn into Company Cultism (CULTure)

Company culture is becoming increasingly important. Consumers are far more highly attuned to it and many talented professionals consider it when deciding whether to apply for a position.

Statistical proof that business culture matters

There is plenty of proof of these two extremely important trends:

·   The 2018 From Me to We: The rise of the purpose-led brand study carried out by Accenture showed that, in the USA, 63% of surveyed consumers said that a company’s ethical stance and culture impacted their purchase decisions.

·   Glassdoor´s 2019 Mission and Culture multi-country survey showed that 77% of job seekers check out company culture when deciding which positions to apply for.

Those are compelling statistics, so understandably, for most organizations, creating the right culture has become far more of a priority than it once was. Something that is improving the workplace and ensuring that workers are happier, which in turn helps them in their personal lives. However, this is only the case when leaders get developing a healthy company culture right.

A balancing act – culture not CULTism

The main danger is taking things too far. Or, moving so fast that people cannot fully understand and embrace the change, which leads to resentment and them not being fully engaged.

It is vital that organizations and business leaders recognize these dangers and actively take steps to avoid them. Those firms that do not do so, run the risk of seeing key employees leaving at an alarming rate. A recent survey carried out by Robert Walters, a global professional recruitment specialist, shows that 73% of professionals have left a company because they did not feel comfortable with the company culture.

Recognizing the early signs of cultism

With that in mind let’s look at the warning signs of corporate cultism. Something that can creep in without an employer realizing that it is happening.

Not allowing employees time for a personal life

Excessively long work hours, inevitably lead to someone’s personal life decaying. If they no longer have time to relax, socialize and spend time with their families, most of a person´s important relationships unravel. At that point, that person becomes almost solely reliant on the firm that they work for. In the end, aside from a few small blocks of time, they are either at work or sleeping. This sounds extreme, but all too often the company’s weekly barbecue and the time they spend in the wellness center becomes their sole sources of relaxation and entertainment.

Too many corporate rituals and pep talks

When a firm´s morning meeting or team building days start to feel more like evangelical events, it is often time to re-think. Pep talks, company songs, rituals, and other mechanisms that are used to lift everyone’s spirits have their place. They can be a fun way to inspire. But, when they are used constantly, employees soon start to feel that they are being brainwashed.

The use of special corporate language

The development of specialist internal jargon or terminology is another indicator of culture becoming CULTure. Corporate cults tend to develop their terminology, in a similar way that religious or social cults do. The use of language that only those on the ïnside´can fully relate to is a danger sign.

No room for debate

Cults do not encourage debate. They expect everyone to follow blindly. Not to ask questions. That can also happen in companies too. If managers are asked to note the details of individuals that do ask questions when new initiatives are introduced that is a red flag. As is not providing a way for those questions to be answered and for feedback to be fed back up the line.

The above is scary stuff, but we can all think of examples of big corporations that behave exactly as described. So, there is no doubt that company culture turning into cultism is a reality.

How to get the message across safely

But that does not mean firms should stop striving to define their values and norms and encourage their employees to adopt and reflect them. In fact, it is essential that they do so, but it needs to be done in the right way.

Gentle nudges and reminders work best

The trick is not to do it in a totalitarian way. Be clear and honest, from the start, what your company culture is. Share them on your website, in your marketing, and in other literature. Highlight them during the induction, training, and employee assessment processes and improve company culture with digital signs and other visual messages that remind people daily of their role in achieving customer satisfaction. These approaches are far more effective at encouraging employees to embody those values and use them to inform the way that they do their job.

Where to find out more

If you have found this article helpful and would like to learn more, this research paper is likely to be of interest. It looks specifically at how to avoid having transformational leadership turn into coercion and corporate cultism.

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company cultism, Company culture, Tips, Work