Culture is what happens when no one is watching, is a saying one has probably heard often. In organizations, the culture isn’t just about leaders sharing the values or purpose with employees to follow. It is when each employee know what to do to keep the culture alive and how to intervene without any hesitation is when the organization prevails.
· Take time to assimilate: Cultures are hard to define and live in unless you spend time learning and knowing the nuances and subtleties. Boorish behavior can be perfectly acceptable elsewhere. A witty comment in one organization can be seen as unwarranted banter in another firm. Knowing what is appropriate and living within the boundaries of what the culture holds is important. Talk to as many seasoned colleagues as you can to know the ‘ways things work around here’. Listen to leaders speaking to know how they value the culture and what makes the place tick.
· Speak up: The organization is as much about you as about others around you. Don’t wait for someone else to speak up when you are confident how it needs to be ‘done around here’. Very often people avoid raising their voice assuming that ‘this is how the place is’ – so let us continue. If you see something amiss that goes against the values or your own values talk it aloud. Connect with your manager if you can count on the person or go to the next higher rung. But speak up. In some cultures speaking may be frowned upon. That shouldn’t stop you from saying what’s on your mind in a direct and civil manner. Protecting the culture is everyone’s responsibility. However, before that be sure you are already living the values!
· Live with unpopular decisions: You may not have all the context and at times you will never know when decisions are made. Often the reasons for some people behaving in a certain way or why some people left the business in a hurry or why some are promoted ahead of the others may befuddle you. There is always a reason and you may not be consulted. Whatever the decision, know that you need to focus on what you are doing at hand. Avoid getting distracted due to such situations.
· Retain what’s right: Culture is like a sapling that needs nurturing. You can’t expect it to grow on its own. It flourishes when everyone is contributing their bit. From talking to other employees about how you experience the culture and what makes it work for you to you helping integrate new joiners – you have a role to play. At one organization I worked, every time a leader visited from another geography even if the individual didn’t find time for other meetings the person made it a point to talk about the values and culture with a bunch of employees.
· Lead by example: Gossiping at the water cooler won’t get you far. It can also erode your credibility. Instead, think of ways to move the organization’s culture ahead. Take time to address your team or others around you about what you find fascinating about the culture you are in. If you have experienced similar situations at other organizations and can spot positive differences in your workplace, do talk about it.Going over and above and yet doing your work is another way to set an example for others to know what behaviors to exhibit. In one company where I worked the seating became difficult for employees to move about easily. One employee took the onus of partnering the administrative team and make suitable changes to the seating structure so that it benefitted all employees working on the floor. Employees greatly appreciated that act.
Know that each one of us can shape the culture in our organizations. Therefore, don’t let people take advantage and ruin what has been nurtured over time. You must take a stand to keep your culture evergreen.
What do you think?
Other posts in the ‘Credibility Degraders’ Series are on Linkedin: