Organizational culture and what it looks like is a critical component of any for-profit or not-for-profit enterprise. And you can be sure that your culture is growing either health or dishealth that will impact your organization. In fact, Culture is never neutral. It either contributes to a healthy organization or creates dysfunction and frustration. With culture, there is no neutral ground.
Everyone who has worked anywhere has stories about culture. Many of them are unhealthy. The question is, why does dysfunctional culture so often get ignored? Why do leaders not deal with unhealthy aspects of their organization's culture?
Because culture sits in the background as an invisible, silent backdrop, we can simply get used to what it is without asking why or noticing its lack of health. We say about difficult people, "They are just like that," rather than asking why we tolerate their behavior. We get used to and content with what is rather than asking what could be.
We may even have a level of cynicism about people or situations that frustrate us but assume nothing will ever change. We learn to accept substandard behaviors or lack of excellence and follow through. We are not surprised or bothered by unproductive meetings or unkept promises. We are used to what is.
This is why there are often deep pockets of dysfunction in organizations, sometimes around one unhealthy individual that doesn't get addressed, yet it infects the whole. These pockets of dysfunction are like a petri dish of bacteria that is growing ugly stuff, but we are so used to it that we hardly notice.
Sometimes, an organization's dysfunctional culture is so obvious that all see it. In other cases, that dysfunction is like a quiet illness permeating the company. Those pockets of dysfunctional culture create dysfunctional organizations which impact every individual, every team, and everything they do.
Try a small experiment. Ask your coworkers or staff these three questions:
- If you could change three things about your workplace, what would they be?
- If you were in charge, what would you do differently?
- How would you rate the health of our culture on a scale of one to ten, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest? Why did you pick that number? What would make your score higher?