Culture is more than words

It has been a while since I’ve been moved to write and share my thoughts.  Today, Kickstarter got my attention.  Here’re my thoughts…

When I think of Tech companies, I think of pool tables, sofas, cool and edgy interior, trendy snack bars…but perhaps my thinking is dated.

Kickstarter just announced that their company voted to unionize 46-37. While collective bargaining has been around a long time, healthcare, education, manufacturing, communications and service industries seem to get the most activity. Not Tech.

Apparently, there is a storm brewing that should get the attention of any organization that doesn’t focus on their organizational culture, regardless of industry.  Those who probably never gave a thought to what could happen when employees are disgruntled may need a wake-up call.

Google started an anti-union campaign last fall, diversity has become a concern in the hallowed halls of Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google, and it seems that the “fun stuff” – the creative and innovative work of technology has been challenged as Tech companies become more embroiled in investor relations, politics and government influence.

That a Tech company has become unionized is a big deal, a reminder that employees who feel taken advantage of do have a way to be heard.  Maybe it’s time to revisit the importance of culture.

Values

When employees’ values conflict with the organization’s values there is a culture clash. Sometimes it really is a clash; other times it might be a misunderstanding.

What can an organization do?  First, state the organizations values clearly and succinctly.  Then, make organizational decisions within the context of those values.

Communication

Employees are smart. When leadership communicates, employees may hear the words.  But you can bet they will watch the actions.  Take values for instance.

When an organization says they value innovation but establishes rigid procedures and limits resources, the employees see reality – rigidity and limited resources.  They start to compare what they hear with what they see and recognize the disconnect. The bigger the disconnect, the more intense the cynicism.

Authenticity

Organizations have the right to be themselves.  They also have the responsibility to communicate who they are authentically and believably.

Telling employees there is no problem when it’s obvious there is, is silly. Today’s media picks up problems in a nanosecond, and employees are tuned in. Addressing the problem and the actions to resolve the problem (and then following through) lead to trust. If trust is a value, authenticity is the way there.

How do you know?

If you must ask that question, you have a problem.  Organizations that ask their employees and act on that information know when their values are clear and communicated authentically.  I don’t mean doing an annual survey then putting the results in the drawer.

I mean have regular conversations, asking questions and listening to the answer.  When leadership doesn’t spend time on the front lines, they have no clue what is really happening. While employees are doing their work is the time to ask how things are going.  You don’t see the real work with only a Town Hall meeting once a month.

Today’s environment is growing hostile. #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter, political polarity and anger are a breeding ground for discontent. Perhaps those who are disgruntled will read about the unionization of Kickstarter with interest.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Culture is more than words

  1. Hi Carol! Thanks for this. I’ve been working through Radical Candor by Kim Scott and one of the main messages is open, transparent and caring communication with teams. I thought I was already good at this, but I’m finding there is always room for improvement. Thinking about my team’s culture is another worthy consideration.

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