A young friend of ours recently started a new job. The work itself is great, but the environment isn’t, at least for him.
Soon after starting, he discovered something that wasn't apparent during his interviews. People in the company are routinely subjected to razzing. No doubt it is well intended, but it's often executed without finesse and comes across as biting sarcasm. Of course, thickness of skin varies across individuals. Our young friend is incredibly good at solving technical problems, but is neither good at creating this kind of banter nor comfortable receiving it.
He spends a significant portion of his time worrying about whether he’s fitting in. Twenty minutes after each difficult exchange, he finds himself thinking, “Oh, I should have said such-and-such.” His reactions are those of someone faced with bullying. It is never far from his mind and is the main topic of the conversations he has with his manager.
What he’s doing is trying to reconcile himself to the culture of the company. This consumes perhaps a third of his day. While he’s doing this, of course, he’s not doing what the company is paying him for.
Whether you consciously created it or not, your company has a culture that determines how your people feel about their jobs hour-to-hour, day-to-day. It's what they discuss at the water cooler.
And it's defined not by the values you espouse, but by the behaviors you tolerate. More than anything else, it’s what determines how much your people care, how engaged they are in their work, and whether or not you’re getting what you’re paying for.
There is no right or wrong culture for companies. Every business has its own. What matters is being intentional about it. We doubt that the leaders of our friend’s company set out to create a culture of bullying, and we suspect they’d be shocked to hear that this is what they've done.
What’s worse, however, is that having created that culture, they've failed to be clear about it to both current and potential employees. This decreases productivity and increases turnover. Both kill profit.
Our young friend already knows that the company is not a good fit for him. He’ll stay there only until something else comes along. Until then, the company will get less from him than they could. They will lose a talent that they might prefer to keep. They'll have wasted the time and money they spent recruiting him, and they'll spend more time and money to replace him.
This is a losing proposition for everyone involved. And it will happen without the company making conscious choices – without intent.
Being intentional about your culture is what matters – actively creating the culture you want and building a strong, cohesive team that fits it. This is never easy, but it can be simple and it can be done. If you’re having a hard time figuring out how to make it happen, we can help.