6 Silent Culture Killers

HR Pros, people leaders, owners, executives, and CEO’s spend countless resources these days building culture. Following the likes of Zappos, Google, Lululemon, and more – culture is no longer just a buzzword. It’s an essential business strategy. If your employees love you, your clients will love you.

Perform a Google search on organizational culture and you’ll find a handful of well respected articles citing the top and most obvious Culture Killers. From the bad seed employee to poor leadership to a lack of direction; this is the stuff we know through and through to spoil culture.

Outside of the obvious, there’s also the Silent Culture Killers. These are actions, attitudes, and behaviours that break down culture on the sly. The Silent Culture Killers are particularly damaging because they’re dysfunctional behaviour; behaviour that goes against company values, cultural goals, and visions but are often too deeply embedded to uproot in the offender(s).

Here are 6 Silent Culture Killers discovered in my career and the do’s and don’t to rising above it:

#1 Silent Culture Killer: Passive Aggressive Behaviour

Perhaps the most silent of them all, passive aggressive behaviour is a hard to pin down, hard to hold accountable, kind of attitude that is disruptive and undermining. It’s the elephant in the room hindering authentic relationships and results from coming to fruition. Passive aggressive behaviour occurs behind the scenes, is emotionally or politically driven, and cripples culture.

Don’t play into passive aggressive tendencies from yourself or others and let resentments build.

Do aim to be authentic and transparent. Lead by example.

#2 Silent Culture Killer: Fear of Tough Conversations

Being in leadership or HR means tough conversations are a part of your job description. Be it the uncomfortable conversation with an employee about personal hygiene or the progressive discipline discussion outlining observations, expectations, and consequences. If your leadership team side steps away from these discussions, makes someone else do their dirty work, or just plain can’t articulate themselves- your high performing culture is out the window.

Don’t avoid things because they make you uncomfortable.

Do challenge yourself to understand why you’re uncomfortable and strive to overcome.

#3 Silent Culture Killer: Inconsistent Values Adoption

Company values are like the foundation of a building; they’re immovable and unchanging. A particularly damaging culture killer is the ‘on/off’ switch of values adoption. This looks like leaders who choose when the values matter and when they don’t. If your leaders can adopt your values only when it suits their needs, what message does that send to employees?

Don’t let yourself negotiate with the importance of company values.

Do follow a values based leadership style and live the values through your behaviour.

#4 Silent Culture Killer: Workspace Layout

Our environments have an important impact on how we behave and feel at work. A healthy workspace encourages collaboration, creativity and getting work done. Individuals thrive in different environments so workplaces should be designed for individuals. Spaces that kill culture vary: they could have too many walls or doors or they might not flow properly by segregating work groups into corners or basements.

Don’t just make a workspace for one type of person or one type of work. One size does not fit all.

Do design a space that makes it easy to communicate and collaborate.

#5 Silent Culture Killer: Cooks in the Kitchen

Cooks in the kitchen is collaboration gone wrong. When decisions are made by committee, it can stifle spirit, intreprenurialism, and ownership. Some of the keys to effective collaboration are teamwork, freedom, and creativity. When decision making is done by joint committee, it may be a sign of distrust or fear which can squelch your employee engagement in a heartbeat.

Don’t make a practice of joint decision making.

Do analyze when decision making should be by committee, and when it shouldn’t be. Consider the value in encouraging employees to fail forward.

#6 Silent Culture Killer: The CEO Whisperer

The CEO Whisperer, the Game maker, the Politician — this player has many names (and faces!) but they’re there, whispering in your CEO’s ear making a ploy for their needs. Often they possess a bona fide level of clout based on their results. They might have a large team, big scope of responsibility, or maybe they’re the top sales person. This person is a strategic influence and usually uses their importance to drive their political agenda.

Don’t get caught up in their political war games.

Do focus on you, your work, and what you can control.

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(About the Author: Writer, connector, collaborator – Gabrielle Garon is an enthusiastic HR pro on a simple mission to be a person of value, not of success. Gabrielle got into HR because she really liked helping others and soon found an overwhelming curiosity for behaviour, motivation, and how it all intersects with business. Gabrielle loves to talk! Her favourite topics are performance management, training & development, culture, and employer branding. Connect with Gabrielle here: @GabrielleGaron or gabriellegaron.com)


photo credit: martins.nunomiguel via photopin cc

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