A workplace with a bad culture has a big problem.
Yeah, it feels bad and sucks to be around, I get that. But it can also seriously affect your productivity, profitability, and of course, your reputation.
If your employees are constantly at war with each other or aren’t driven to provide value to the company? Boom! Probably a bad culture.
Lots of procrastination, dawlding and chucking sickies? Cough cough, bad culture.
If you don’t check a bad culture in it’s early stages, issues like discrimination and shady business practices can slip through the cracks. No business is perfect, I get it. But by maintaining a great office culture, you can prevent bigger issues from forming and course correct as you go.
Workplace culture is vital for a healthy, functioning business.
I started brewing kombucha at home, and it really made me appreciate how important a good culture is. If one little fruit fly gets in, it can ruin a whole 10 litre batch.
Culture isn’t something you set and forget about, you’ve gotta constantly check in and maintain it. Kinda like gardening, you’ve gotta plant seeds, water, fertilize, and keep weeding the bad stuff out.
I’m bloody proud of my culture, and work hard to hold the standard. If you’re wondering how I do it, don’t worry I’ll spill the beans.
What I don’t tolerate in my workplace
If someone doesn’t know or care about what they’re working towards, you bet your arse they won’t be working very hard.
You need to be able to articulate what you’re trying to achieve, why it’s worth achieving, and how you’re going to do it.
I look for ways every day to tell my team that our purpose is to help business owners, our mission is to create and grow the world’s most exclusive tribe of elite entrepreneurs, and our twelve values on the wall tell us exactly how we’re going to get there.
Once you can explain the what, the why and the how, you need to make sure that everything that happens in your workplace is supportive of that.
I don’t care if it’s printing a form, or sending an email. or writing a blog like this. You want your employees to conduct every task with a sense of purpose, and know that they’re contributing to your mission.
Lack of leadership
When I talk about leadership, I don’t mean some arrogant dictator who thinks because their badge says “manager” that they can boss everyone around.
I mean I want my team to show dedication. To innovate and constantly improve. To empower and support each other. To manage their time, to focus, and to lead by example.
We use the airforce methodology that meetings are nameless, blameless and rankless, meaning anyone who participates has a voice, no matter who they are or how long they’ve been in the organisation. Leadership isn’t just some label you’re assigned, leadership is a behaviour, an action and a value you embody every single day.
Politics & gossip
I do not entertain this for even one second, and encourage everyone in the office to shut it down as soon as they see it.
No-one is to feel belittled and bullied when they do their job, it’s not healthy, not productive, and not tolerated.
Sure, there’s a way to raise concerns or voice an opinion. But if you wouldn’t say it to that persons’ face, you probably shouldn’t say it.
If you’re about to speak up about something that’s been bothering you, make sure you check your ego and you’re staying rational.
You are not above or below anyone else, let’s just put our differences aside and focus on the mission.
Policies change from industry to industry, but I think we can all identify one’s that are pointless as f**k. Needing to put your hand up to go to the bathroom, a dozen meetings a day, pow-wow’s where nothing gets done.
I encourage you- and every employee- to question the purpose of everything you do. How is it creating impact? Where’s the value in this?
Thinking critically about the way things are done, allows you to constantly improve and minimise inefficiency.
Us vs. them
This is a toxic mentality- in or out of the workplace.
Feeling like you have to defeat the other person to get what you want is a pretty clear sign of ego, and really breaks down relationships.
Whenever there’s a problem, remember “it’s us vs. the problem, not you vs. me”. Whether it’s you and another employee, your department and another department, or even you and the customer.
I’m gonna drill it into your brains, it’s us vs. the problem, not you vs. me.
Ego – justifying, blaming, deflecting, the need to demonstrate intelligence
I’ve spoken a lot about the ego and how to keep it in check.
The ego thrives in performance based environments, so it’s no wonder it often creeps up in the workplace.
A fragile ego can make people sensitive to criticism, resent other people’s achievements, and bring rational thought to a grinding halt.
The key is to be able to recognise when the ego is present, acknowledge it, then let it go so you can focus on the situation at hand.
Lack of empowerment
When you do your annual planning (which you should all be doing, even quarterly planning), be sure to keep your employees looped in and show them your strategy.
Communicate with them what priorities are in focus this quarter, what’s urgent, what each department’s doing.
I trust my employees enough to set their own goals for the week, and tasks for the day, as they’re the experts in their field, not me. They know what needs to get done each quarter and year, they know what’s expected of them. My goal is to hire people that are excellent at what they do and then get out of their way.
I empower them to set their tasks, to go about it however works best for them. The flipside of that is that if things aren’t getting done, it’s been their responsibility the whole time, and it’s on them.
Recruiting the wrong people
Recruitment is vital for a great culture. I once made the tough call to fire someone who did their job better than I’d ever seen in the past 16 years.
Why? Because they just weren’t a good fit and it was causing resentment and tension in the office.
Whenever I’m hiring, I really pay attention to what my gut and my intuition are telling me about a person. Do I think they have bad intentions? Do they seem a bit gossipy? Is there ego showing and are they acting like they have some kind of point to prove?
It’s important to think about this stuff. Someone that comes into the office and ruffles feathers is probably gonna lower morale, set a low standard for other staff members, and weaken the whole strength of the team.
Not practicing open communication
Every single morning my team gathers in a huddle to establish what will be done that day and how their progress is going from the day before. I finish every one of those meetings by asking my team “What’s left unsaid here?”.
This gives everyone the chance to spill something on their mind and air out any issues before they unfold.
Whether they slept badly and would appreciate some patience, or they need a hand with a big task, they can be open about what’s on their mind to avoid any resentment or build-up.
I also encourage people to start tough conversations with “In the spirit of open and honest communication…” This is great because it helps people not take things so personally.
No matter how difficult what you’re about to say is, people would much rather you be honest with them, so setting it up like this helps people understand where you’re coming from.
Setting people up to fail
I genuinely want each and everyone one of my employees to thrive and do their absolute best at the things they love.
I know people are going to do their best work when they have the support and resources available to perform.
I’m not going to chuck them an endless to-do list and say “figure it out”- that’s a massive dick move and it’s not helping either of us.
It’s important to provide training, be there to answer questions, let them tell you if the workload is too much, and give them an opportunity to manage their time so they can get things done, and done well.
When people feel entitled, they stop working hard and they can’t take reasonable feedback.
My recommendation is to mentally fire everyone 6-12 months. Then ask yourself, would you hire them back?
If your employees are entitled and just cruising along, they’ve got to go.
If they stop earning and working hard for a place at your company, they’ve gotta go.
If they’re whinging about not getting enough opportunities or recognition, but can’t tell you what they’ve done to earn it, they’ve gotta go.
So, there you go. Those are my absolute dealbreakers when it comes to office culture.
FREE DOWNLOAD: How to build culture that wins
- The Art of Listening from a World-Class Manager | Adam Mendler | S2 EP 4 - April 13, 2021
- The hidden power of mushrooms | Julian Mitchell | Unstoppable #114 - October 13, 2020
- From the navy to the business world | Anthony Richardson | Unstoppable #113 - October 5, 2020