Do you want to destroy organizational culture? Of course not. But you might be doing it.
I just saw this quote from a friend on Facebook:
“Nothing will destroy a great employee like watching your employer tolerate and reward the bad ones.”
Wow. That is as scary as it is profound, perhaps because we all know how many bad employees aren’t just tolerated but rewarded.
Playing devil’s advocate, my first thought was, “what if you have a previously-bad employee who is really making some serious progress? Should you not reward him/her?” If you are going to take the above comment to a leadership meeting and talk about how to not destroy organizational culture, that culture you have worked so hard to build and reinforce, you probably should have an honest conversation on what a “bad” employee really is.
Sometimes a bad employee today could be your best, most productive, and most supportive of your culture, tomorrow.
Other times you need to recognize that you made a serious hiring mistake, set your ego aside, and remove them so they don’t continue to destroy organizational culture.
Here’s the thing: Everyone knows who this person is, and they are sick of watching them being tolerated and rewarded while they cause so much damage. You can’t get up in company meetings and talk about how important your organizational culture is, while letting that person be a cancer in your organization.
I’ve seen this happen. I was too close to this situation, and it was disturbing to see how empowered that harmful person was. It was also sad to see how confused everyone else was, watching that person get away with bad behavior.
Unfortunately, this harmful person is put into a management or leadership role, where they can do more harm. And the mixed, confusing signals are perpetuated and amplified.
At Snowfly, we talk all day long about building and reinforcing organizational culture. We talk about using data to guide decisions, and empathy to help you become a better leader. We offer effective rewards and recognition tools, and help our clients come up with effective employee engagement programs that help with this overall goal of building a strong and long-lasting organizational culture. We do this with gamification tools that are fun and engaging. We work hard to help you with your culture.
We are all about consistency in messaging. It hurts us to think that there are organizations out there who are investing a ton of money into their culture, employee engagement programs, rewards and recognition, only to have one person who is destroying every bit of the end goal.
Don’t Destroy Organizational Culture
Your employees would, if they felt comfortable, beg you to not destroy organizational culture. They have chosen to work at your organization, and on your team. Yes, they are there for money, so they can pay their bills. But they want some kind of quality of life while at work. They want to enjoy what they do and who they work for.
In one organization I observed, everyone knew who the bad employee was. It just seemed like leadership let this person destroy organizational culture without any limits. This person said things in meetings, acted in inappropriate ways, and modeled bad behavior.
One of the executive team told me that this person was basically on a growth journey, and that they were supporting the offender as they grew. They had invested in, and were going to continue to invest in, the person. It was almost like there was a sunk cost they didn’t want to lose (see the sunk cost fallacy to see why any of that kind-of-almost made sense).
I thought that was a kind, merciful, even human approach for this one person’s career and future.
But, the rest of the organization, which was hundreds of people, just saw one thing: a person who was doing a great job destroying the organization’s culture from the inside. And leadership letting it happen.
That’s the thing: This issue is more on leadership than it is on the bad person. Leading can be fun and empowering, but this is the hard part where you need to make some seriously hard decisions. Let that person go. Move them to a less-impactful position. Take away their influence.
You have to protect your organizational culture. When you look away, and let this person continue to destroy organizational culture, you are sending a message that the person is more important than the culture. That single person is more important than the whole, or anyone else, or the collective rest of the team.
That’s it. That’s how you destroy organizational culture in one easy step: Let someone continue to be the cancer in your organization.
The fix is acute. It’s serious. It can be hard. But you need to remove the threat. Company culture may feel squishy, and hard to define, but letting someone destroy what you are working for, and what you talk about, is one of the worst things you can do as a leader.
Want to talk about how to build and nurture your team’s, company’s, or organization’s culture? Reach out to us. We have culture nerds on our team who would love to talk all day long about this stuff.