More signs that you have a culture problem

I recently wrote a blog post about the signs that might suggest an organisation has a culture problem.  Here are just a few more.

High employee turnover

This one is kind of obvious perhaps. There are many reasons behind turnover, and sweeping generalisations should be avoided.  Even that one about people leaving managers and not jobs.  But if people are exiting at a rapid rate, especially when they have short tenure, then something, somewhere, isn’t quite right. Note – a bog standard exit interview won’t answer the question.

Meetings and more meetings

You have to have one for every bloody thing. They run over time, there’s no agenda and if there is no one sticks to it.  They are stuffed full of PowerPoint, and they are all about updates and not decisions.  I recently came across a HBR article, in which it said that the sign of a great meeting isn’t the meeting itself, but what happens after it.  Never a truer word was blogged

The answer to every challenge, is to write a policy……

Which no one will ever read. People are taking too long on their breaks, lets write a policy about that.  Someone turns up at the office with blue hair, lets write a policy about that.  You end up with a load of stupid rules that most people won’t even realise exist, rather than sensible conversations from one adult to another.

There is a lack of concern about people stuff.

Whether we are talking about how the candidate is treated during their application process through to whether anyone ever gets a feedback conversation. Often, people stuff is the easiest stuff to let slide.   Here’s a question for you.  At your place, would a manager get the same angst about not getting their 121s in the diary as they would for going over budget?

The Disciplinary Stick is wielded often.

I once worked at a place where so many disciplinary hearings were held, they became a focus of fun. At the start of a shift, the manager would hand out all the little white envelopes with invitations to investigations, invitations to hearings.  An almost perverse badge of honour.  Is it your turn today?  There are times that discipline is appropriate.  Repeated issues, gross misconduct.  But all too often it is a sign that adult dialogue has failed.

There are unhelpful colloquialisms

Many years ago, I worked somewhere that had developed its own slang. A whole internal language.  The place was so rife with people getting blamed, getting pulled up and being shouted down, it had its own special phrase: getting a pineapple.  Which was short for, I have just had a pineapple placed robustly in a delicate part of my anatomy by a more senior member of staff.  Including the spikey bit. Humour can be useful. It can also be destructive and perpetuate problems.

Culture, is contextual. There are few generalisations that can be made, apart from to say simply, that if any of these signs or symptoms exist at your place, it is important to listen, to understand, to ask why.

It is often said that culture is hard to change. That if takes a very long time if you try.  There is some truth in both of these statements. But it is possible to take small steps and address the symptoms as well as the causes.  Challenge the language, change the approach, role model a different path.  And these are spaces that HR can absolutely lead the way.

3 thoughts on “More signs that you have a culture problem

  1. There’s some really great insights here Gemma, thanks. And you’re right to highlight the subtleties and difficulties involved in true culture change, alongside the challenge to HR practitioners to step up to the plate and lead that change – it’s not easy! I’d love to hear from others genuine examples of where HR has led that change to inspire the rest of us – I wonder if anyone reading your blog has some?

  2. Great article which I read with enjoyment! its not often I read a blog post which sounds like it’s me musing out loud. The meetings for meetings sake is what drives me particularly nuts. It’s as though no one believes anyone is being productive unless there is a meeting to discuss it!

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