Do you know your Culture?

What kind of a culture do you want to create? Many organizations talk about workplace culture but I wonder how many really know what kind of a culture they truly have.

Unfortunately, the leaders of an organization are often out of touch with what happens on the ‘shop floor’ as it were and I’ll bet they’d be surprised at what they’d learn if they came into the organization as a new worker.

There is a new TV reality show (in all honesty, I have yet to see it) called Undercover Boss (CBS). The premise of the show is this:

High-level executives go anonymously into some of the lowest level jobs within their respective companies. They work alongside the rank and file and find out what their employees really think of them, and they will get first-hand knowledge of how their companies really run. In the process, these executives learn a lot about themselves, the perception of their company and the spirit of their workplaces.

They see the way their teams really work together and understand their front line leadership better as well. As I say, I have not seen the show; but I love the premise.

I think that in real life (not reality TV) some executives would be wise to try to learn what really goes on. As I say, many of them are out of touch from what I have experienced and seen personally.

I had the opportunity to work on a project that was aimed at changing a workplace culture. In the project I was involved in, the culture had to do with workplace attitudes around safety and the misconception that safety was strictly an individual’s business only. It was an eye-opener for many within the organization because perceptions around safety did in fact change following the completion of the project. The first piece was in helping the organization understand what its culture really was. Helping them to define the existing culture first and foremost, was one of the keys in helping to drive attitudinal changes.

I think that this would have been a difficult task if it had not been done by an external party. It took coming from the outside to shed light on the behaviours those on the inside could not see. Culture is basically a statement of ‘the way we do things around here’ and once you have been ensconced into the culture of a workplace (or even in your own personal lifestyle), you no longer see the forest for the trees, as it were.

I think it would do many organizational leaders some good to learn about what their culture really is. Is it one that encourages teamwork? If so, they should notice these types of behaviours and attitudes:

  • Team members are skilled in all the various roles and functions
  • The teams (departments) have developed well-established, relaxed working relationships
  • There is loyalty among group members
  • Values and goals of the organization or department are in harmony
  • Problem solving and decision-making is done in a supportive, trusting atmosphere
  • There is a sense of ownership amongst the team in that any materials contributed to the team is treated as ‘ours’
  • Constructive criticism does not create disagreements personally or confuse rejection of ideas as rejection of the individual.
  • The team works collectively and supportively helping each member develop to his/her full potential
  • There is strong motivation from each member to communicate fully and frankly to the team all the information which is relevant and of value to the team’s activities.

If these healthy team attitudes are missing, I would suggest that the culture isn’t as healthy as it could be.

I challenge those organizations that call themselves “Best in Class” to look at the culture within their own company – is it what you want to see?  are people performing in the way you think they are?  and do you have healthy team-players who encourage one another to be successful and support open communication?


About hrscoops

This entry was posted in Change, Communication, Human Behaviour, Perception, Undercover Boss, Workplace Culture and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Do you know your Culture?

  1. Pat Meehan says:


    Excellent blog article! I think I will start a show called under cover vendor. That would be very interesting. Big bosses who come down to thw customer service rep’s desk, or similar can really get a taste of what’s going on in their company.


  2. David Gabor says:

    I have long wanted to expose the C-Levels to life in the trenches. I am glad that CBS ran the series and am happier that you are writing about it.

    To cure some of the economic woes we are experiencing requires regaining corporate trust. To that end, lines of communication and understanding have to be reaffirmed. There is no better way to understand colleagues then standing side by side getting the job done. I also liked your bullet points regarding the workplace.

    I have spoken with people who work for companies that were part of the Undercover CEO and they did feel much better learning about the CEO and taking comfort in the notion that he was going to spend more time better understanding his employee’s needs.

    I look forward to reading future articles in your blog.

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