Kirsty Craig Associates - A fish rots from the head: company culture

A fish rots from the head: company culture

The culture of a company – what is it?

How do we define it?  Do we recognise it? How abstract is it? One definition states it as being: ‘A blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals and myths companies develop over time.’  Is this what we call custom and practice adopted and absorbed over time by employers and employees?  What is your company culture are aware of?  Does it matter?

In a company where people are happy, treated with respect, included and involved you are more likely to find productive people.  Where you have mean spirited, nasty people, they not only damage others they adversely affect performance, undermine confidence and inevitably create a high turnover of people that increases cost. There are numerous studies that show people respond to bullying and overbearing bosses and fellow workers by calling in sick more often.  They also tend to be less involved, positive, make fewer suggestions, and their contribution and quality of work are much lower.

They say a fish rots from the head and I am inclined to believe it.  I spent some time in the Merchant Navy, (when we had one) and sailed on numerous and different ships. I saw the unhappiest of ships change overnight with a change of captain, and sadly vice versa.  Workplaces on land are not so contained but the example and behaviour set by the CEO or owner/manager will infect the organisation.  If he/she is a bully then that is how the place will be managed on all levels.

However, I have also first-hand experience of a company where a perfectly good boss appointed a senior manager who, over a period of time, proved to be an absolute terrorist by inculcating the lie with the employees that the owner had become an ogre, and if they spoke out or complained they would be fired.  The senior manager consolidated her own position by telling the owner only good news.

Visiting a company can tell you a lot; the reception, the receptionist, how you are greeted, how you are treated, was your appointment is kept to time? The housekeeping, the toilets – all these things will give you a feel for the place.

What is not difficult to realise is that a happy workforce reflects well on the company – that it’s a good place to work.  Where going to work on a Monday morning is not a chore, where people get on with each other – these things will get spoken about outside of work in positive terms and will, in turn, attract better people.  A culture that embraces and values its staff and their opinions will be more productive and successful.

I believe it’s is worth taking a long hard look at your business on regular basis to ensure the beliefs and rituals that have gone to create the aura and success are maintained, while still striving for improvement.

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