“We have a ‘whack-a-mole’ culture.”
That is by far my favorite corporate culture narrative I have ever heard from a client. “Every time someone stands out or speaks out the CEO whacks ‘em publicly so that they don’t overshadow her ego,“ was how the upper leadership told me their story.
Every organizational culture creates its own story about itself. In a healthy culture, these stories drive morale and productivity. And sadly, the opposite is also true. Dysfunctional organizations tell and retell narratives thereby reinforcing their low morale and their problems.
Worse still, those ugly narratives, when told and retold then, in turn, become part of the very culture themselves.
What is a leader or reformer to do?
Realigning a dysfunctional cultural narrative is very difficult. The best way to approach this is directly. Task a creative team member to write up the nasty story as a skit that can be acted out before other employees. Then, hold a facilitated discussion on how this story is preventing the company from reaching its goals. Next comes the part requiring some magic: invite those assembled to “rewrite their own narrative.”
From this point, it becomes the intentional focus of management to speak out every time the old narrative reappears. Managers need to exhort employees to tell the new narrative instead, thus reinforcing the desired cultural transformation.
Do you know your story? If not, you may need outside help to uncover it. Call us. We can help.