A Company Culture Creates Itself If You Don’t

Nov 29, 2016, Written by Sue Miley


David walked into his office building quietly.  Maybe no one will hear me, he thought.  I am really not up for the aggravation today.  When did it get this way?  I can’t remember a specific change that happened, but lately the office just frustrates me.  Is it the morale?  Is it the distraction?  Between the constant dinging of personal texts on everyone’s phones to the line outside of my door to complain about each other, the place is just not pleasant.

David knows he can’t keep avoiding the office.  It is his company after all.  And it is ridiculous, anyway.  He shouldn’t be the one uncomfortable in his own office.  The thoughts keep whirling in his head, in no particular order, and they don’t slow down long enough for him to form a conclusion or solution.

  • With all of the complaining and personal stuff going on… is anyone getting any work done?
  • Are there a couple of bad eggs in the group setting a poor example for the rest of the team?
  • Can you demand people to focus on their work and be positive to each other and customers? Or will that backfire and make it worse?
  • How did it get here?

These questions and more plagued him.

Will I Have To Start Over?

What David is struggling with is actually pretty common in small businesses.  When there are only a few employees, distraction and attitude do make a huge impact on the rest of the team.  They certainly affect large companies as well, but it can feel magnified in a small business.

Another thing going on here is the work ethic.  There doesn’t appear to be a respect for David and the work environment.  Everyone has an occasional phone call or text.  We all have personal errands to run.  However, when there is no separation of work and personal, it blends together and it is hard to come back and set reasonable limits and expectations.

When I spoke to David, he was beginning to think that the only way to change things is to get rid of the whole team and start over.  But even with only ten employees, they all serve a needed role.  How can he recruit a whole new team?

These were the extremes keeping David up at night.

This was all the result of a company culture that had evolved in his company.  Company culture?  “I didn’t create a culture that I would hate working in?  They just all went crazy on me!”

A Company Culture Creates Itself If You Don’t

This is what happens if we are not intentional about the culture we want.  It becomes a hodgepodge of the people’s individual perspectives at best, or the culture develops from the most vocal and extreme person on the team.

Culture is made up of many aspects of the team and the leadership.  If the culture isn’t decided and solid before you hire your team, you may or may not hire the right people.  The “right people” being defined as individuals whom will match your culture.  When you start with the people in place, it is very often difficult to create a new culture that works with and fits everyone on the team.

But, if your company’s culture makes you want to run and hide…somewhere else, then you want to put the time and effort to transform your team and environment to match the core values you want to instill, the way you want to work together and the mission/vision you are going after.

Transforming Your Culture

Transforming your culture requires multiple steps:

  1. Make sure your vision and mission are clear and widely communicated. Even though your vision/mission has always stayed the same to you, it must be shared with your employees, vendors and customers.
  2. Develop and communicate a set of core values you have for your business and team.  Sometimes we believe everyone thinks the same way, thus the well-known phrase, “It’s just common sense.”  Doesn’t everyone think and believe in the same things?  Definitely not.  You must define the important values you have for how the company does business, how you treat each other and customers, and how you work.  This is essential to ensuring the right people are hired to the team.
  3. Develop and communicate job requirements and expectations.  It is still important to hire people with the experience needed to fulfill your expectations and the requirements of each role in the company.  They can’t do this if the job requirements are not clear.  It is your responsibility to make sure you set the expectations and fill each role with people who can and will readily do the job.
  4. Evaluate each person on your team for fit with the core values and vision.  This is hard.  You hired these people in good faith and they accepted not knowing fully your culture and expectations (if you are just now solidifying).  I believe everyone should have a chance, but that can’t happen unless you really understand who fits and who doesn’t.  Also, you need to establish why they don’t fit in order to help with change.
  5. Give feedback to each person regarding how they fit with the core values and vision.  If a person does not match your newly solidified culture, this does not mean that they are a bad person.  Again, this is all new to them, too.  It is important to communicate honestly and openly the vision, core values, and job description to each team member.  It is also essential to provide feedback to them regarding your thoughts on how they fit with the now communicated direction.  They need to decide if they want to eliminate the gap.
  6. Create a development plan for those that may not fully match today. For those who do want to eliminate the gap, you can create a development plan that creates actions and timelines to move toward the goals.  This is a plan that both of you agree upon in order for you to work together to bring the team member fully on board with the new direction.

Don’t Give Up On Seeding the New Culture

The current state of your team didn’t evolve over night.  It took time.  David can’t even remember when he started avoiding his own company.  A bad morale and a team that does not match the vision and values you dreamed of for your company is like a slow-growing, life-threatening disease.  To stop the spreading and to kill the bad cells, a strong dose of change is required and ongoing treatment is needed for full transformation to the healthy organization you desire.

This requires consistent communication, constant accountability and periodic review.  And it requires you!  The owner must lead the change and participate in the full metamorphisis and maintenance.

It Gets Easier Over Time

Don’t worry, though.  Over time, it does get easier.  Once each team member is on board and matches both the experience you need and the core values, the good begins to spread as fast and deep as the bad.  Soon you and your team are living out the full vision you have for your company.

David learned this through hard work and sticking with it.  It took awhile, but now he is proud of his business and it shows.  He is excited to get to the office and he is selling more and more as he wants to share the team and services with prospects and clients.  The right culture doesn’t just transform the team environment, it is essential for a growing company.

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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