What kind of company culture exists where you work? Is it a company with lots of policies, organisation charts, and job titles that begin junior or senior? Is it a place where there is a very clear ‘chain of command’ and an individual’s power depends generally on their place in that chain?
Some companies have very important people who are called managers, who see themselves as ‘people who tell other people what to do’ and they love having policies and rules because they can use them to tell other people how to do things. So far so good.
Some managers feel that the rules and policies are the most important thing about the job so they spend their time checking and re-checking that everyone is strictly following the rules. When that happens, it is called micro managing and one of the victims of micro managing is trust.
Teams feel they cannot trust the manager because he or she is constantly trying to catch them breaking the rules. Managers do not trust their team unless they can be involved in everything the team does. The result of this type of management or culture is that people refuse to be responsible for their actions and the policies or rules are used as a line of defence rather than a standard of practice. An example is a process that is blatantly wrong for the client; however, the rules say I have to do it this way so I will. If there is a problem – “I was just following the rules”.
A recent survey found that nearly three quarters (74%) of staff surveyed said they wanted more freedom in their roles, and a third (34%) said their work was too regulated, and that they were forced to work within excessively controlled structures. Therefore, if you recognise this description as typical of where you work, you are certainly not alone.
This culture will suffocate creativeness and innovation, and mask serious errors and mistakes because there is no trust and everyone is looking out for himself or herself. This type of culture will lose good employees and be unable to deliver a good quality service to clients.
In the same survey mentioned above, 53% of employees said they would seriously consider leaving an organisation if the culture did not change. The struggle to find good people with the right skills and attitude is going to get more and more difficult. Add to this that the quality of service provision will have a massive impact on whether business succeeds or not and you have a recipe for disaster.
On the other hand, maybe you work in a place where the culture can be described as being less structured and where people are not generally bothered by job titles or their position in the structure of the business. You possibly work in a place where people are taken seriously because they are good at what they do and are supportive of others. This type of culture still does have policies although, it is understood that in today’s ever changing environment the policies cannot cover all eventualities and therefore a more flexible, common sense approach is used.
The leaders in this type of culture communicate regularly with employees and this communication is two-way so that each party can learn from the other. Treating employees like adults and letting them make decisions about their jobs leads to the promotion of ideas, and who better to make improvements than the person who is doing that job. This also means sharing business information with employees, such as why decisions are made and what are the expected outcomes. If people understand the objectives of the business and the company values, they can better work out what is the best thing to do. This will engage employees to care more about the company and their role in it.
When there is trust between leaders and employees, everyone understands that making mistakes does not equal punishment because they are trusted to make decisions and take action using their best intentions. This is called empowerment and this type of culture makes it clear what the outcomes of the job are, as opposed to step by step, never to be diverted from, procedures.
This culture requires leaders (or managers) to choose good people and then, when they are comfortable, let them get on with the job. Which they can do because they are technically competent at the job and are also able to understand the outcomes of their job in relation to the values of the company. They don’t ‘just follow orders’, they respond to each situation with creativity and make choices that are best for the client and the business.
I know which type of culture I prefer to work in.
words | Sylvia Kenna, The HR Dept.