1) POLICY MISTAKES
Remember Mary Bara?
By far, the most common wrenches we find in the gears of company culture are policies and procedures that diminish human dignity and/or that conflict with the stated values of the companies we work with.
In most cases, leaders truly hold the values they preach. They’re not just words on the wall. Also, in most cases, we find policies and actions throughout our client companies that contradict those values.
It’s usually conventional-unwisdom that steers them wrong.
The history of Human Resources and people-management is unfortunately rife with so called, “best practices,” that are destructive – not only to the employee experience, but also to performance for the company, and so also, the bottom line.
Thank goodness, the mounting research at places like Google, proves that performance, dignity, and autonomy are not at odds. They’re closely linked.
2) TRAINING GAPS
Also, the vast majority of companies don’t have a system to define, “This is how we manage people around here.” Managers – and particularly their ability to lead effectively – will make or break your company, its ability to attract and retain talent, and its performance and profitability. Yet, it’s an unfortunate truth that most managers rely on their gut and informal learning in their practice of management.
And, leadership style doesn’t hold a candle to leadership science when it comes to results – both business results and human satisfaction results.
And if it’s true that people don’t leave their jobs; they leave their bosses, then you need your managers to be practicing sound leadership science, informed by their guts.
3) POORLY DEFINED TERMS
RESPECT, for example, is a value we all share. We all want to give and receive respect at work. And yet, arguments about and surrounding respect are some of the most common sources of conflict in the workplace.
“I demand you show me some respect!”
“No you’re not!”
Almost always, this profound disagreement is not merely a difference in perception and experience. At its core, it’s a difference in definition and in operationalization.
You can never truly know if I respect you. Respect lives in my heart and in my head. You can’t see in there. What you can see is how I behave.
So in order to create harmony, in order to measure our success at living up to a value like respect, we’ve got to define our values in terms of behaviors. They’ve got to be operationalized. And few companies have taken their core values to the level of operations and behavior.
4) MORALE AND EFFICIENCY SABOTAGE
There are lots of ways that bureaucracy and red tape can undermine efficiency and sap morale. You’ve been to the DMV. You know that’s true.
One very common and extremely dangerous example is a misalignment of responsibility and authority. Someone’s success is measured by their ability to achieve a particular outcome – and then the company does not give them the authority to accomplish that outcome.
You’ve likely experienced one of the most common examples of this gap.
In call centers, customer service reps are evaluated on their ability to resolve customer issues a) in a single call, b) swiftly (so they can move on to the next call), c) without escalating the call to a supervisor. The better a rep is at meeting these criteria, the “better” the rep’s performance.
And yet, so very often, the rep is not given the authority to make the decisions necessary to satisfy the customer.
You’ve heard, “Sorry, we can’t do that,” from a call center rep when you’ve made a reasonable request. “That’s our policy.” So you ask to speak to a supervisor. “The supervisor will tell you the same thing.” So you ask to speak to a supervisor anyway. “The supervisor will tell you the same thing.” And around it goes, again and again, until you finally talk to a supervisor.
And the supervisor immediately gives you what you asked for in the first place, no problem.
The rep struggled against you because they lacked the authority to give you what you wanted and would be dinged for escalating you to the person who had that authority.
If you think you were frustrated as the employee, imagine the morale of the call center rep who likely knew your request was reasonable and wanted to grant it, who likely believed you’d never be able to get what you were asking for because they’re largely kept in the dark, and who feared allowing you to speak to their supervisor because doing so threatens their livelihood.
Now that’s a structural sabotage of culture, of recruitment and retention, and of customer satisfaction and retention too. People and profits cannot thrive under those conditions!