There is no such thing as a "company culture". Culture is the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social groups. It is something that takes root when people bring their authentic selves to the forefront and share ideals that shape the way generations will interact with their peers and others outside of the culture.
Culture can be a wonderful and beautiful thing to behold. And, there is simply no way for this to take place in an environment that is manufactured, inauthentic, and cutthroat as a company, especially one here in America.
The term "company culture" is just a buzzword that consultants use to elicit a response from prospects. What people are masquerading as culture is actually just compliance.
And there is generally no uniqueness or beauty in compliance programs. There are, however, a series of punishments associated with non-compliance that only results in a dampening of employee morale.
Companies are looking for people to comply with whatever they deem appropriate behavior. It does not matter if their compliance programs totally conflict with an individual's culture, it must be adhered to or consequences will follow.
The consequences for non-adherence stand in stark contrast to real culture. For example, in African American culture it's fairly common for people to eat collard greens and do the electric slide at parties.
However, if I were to opt out of eating greens or participating in the electric slide, I won't be punished or expelled from the Black community
By contrast, failure to attend company dinners and events will result in you failing to be promoted or being first up on the chopping block when layoffs come around.
Replace the word culture with compliance and you will have an accurate description of what is actually taking place when people implement these programs.
For most, conformity involves leaving their authentic selves at home when they head into the office. The norms set by most corporations are not something many people follow in their personal lives.
People from different backgrounds and cultures have different ideals and goals. Asking them to forget what makes them unique and replace it with whatever nonsense the company's HR team comes up with is not only unrealistic, its cruel.
There are consequences of forcing company culture onto people. The most obvious is that people will simply leave. No one wants to be told what to believe or how to behave.
Of course, everyone should be expected to be respectful to each other but I've seen some places get really weird with their "cultural requirements". A common tenant of most force culture programs is the requirement for everybody to work hard.
This requirement in and of itself is not bad, it's just confusing. Corporate types and non-corporate people have completely different definitions of being nice.
I have often found that nice in the corporate world working hard means two things: working outside of your job description and working outside of normal operating hours.
Both of these things have a massively negative impact on the individual doing them. Only the company benefits from this type of "culture". In corporate terms, this means violating an SLA (service level agreement) and breaching scope without commensurate compensation.
This is something that most companies avoid doing at all costs because it negatively impacts productivity and profitability. Even if they do make exceptions sometimes it certainly is not the norm and for good reason.
However, nearly every company that I have ever worked at expected this of each and every person that worked there. Ironically, another common tenant of company culture is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It's a statement that reeks of hypocrisy when uttered in most places.
If you value the mental health of the people who work at your company promote a message of tolerance and respect. Don't try to force culture down their throats because they will just leave and/or resent you for it. Give people opportunities to better themselves as individuals.
Although a person's job takes up more than a third of their day, it is a very small portion of who they are. As such whatever you try and force them to do at work will not apply at home or elsewhere.
Companies should not try to win hearts and minds. Instead win deals, satisfy customers, and respect the individuality of those that work at the company. When you try and force culture you are walking that fine line between CEO and cult leader.
All too often people try to focus on employee engagement when what they are really trying to accomplish is employee indoctrination. Companies don't need engaged employees, they need honest people with enough respect for themselves to set boundaries.
When you respect yourself, you respect others which helps create a positive work environment that could have never happened by imposing a corporate, perverse version of culture.
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Posted by: Matt Irving on 11/21/2022