Your business may be humming along – even growing at a faster rate than the market you serve. But is your company culture contributing to your growth? Furthermore, can company culture stunt your growth?  

What is the link between company culture, innovation, morale, and business performance? And is there such a thing as cultural risk? Moreover, your company may not be attracting and retaining the kind of employees – or customers – you need to continue to be successful if the company culture isn’t what it should be. So, how do you know if you have a problem with your corporate culture? 

Oftentimes, inspection and assessment of the role culture plays in one’s success comes after growth has slowed down or stopped. Which may mean it will take more than just a conscious effort to repair and earn the credibility of your constituents.

Unhealthy Culture Symptoms and Consequences

If a company experiences troubling workplace attitudes and behaviors, there may very well be a cultural problem. Some of the symptoms of cultural crises can include sexual harassment, gender discrimination, micro-aggressions, unrealistic deadlines and sales goals, financial misconduct, cheating of employees or customers, neglecting safety requirements, and poor leadership behavior. 

These ethical lapses speak directly to how business owners, CEOs, and anyone in a leadership position are actually running the business and ignoring the cause(s) of the symptoms which may be staring them in the face. Poor behavior at the top is often a predictor of problems with a company’s culture. When leaders don’t behave in ways that are consistent with corporate values and if there are no consequences for aberrant behavior, then there is little to no incentive to correct that behavior. No harmful actions will be curbed if people know they will not be held accountable for their actions. Variances in the company’s stated values and perceived values will also impact the organization, albeit negatively. Employees notice these instances, as do customers, so business is affected at every stage, even though it might happen slowly and over a long period of time. 

Culture is actually a liability for companies that aren’t vigilant about ensuring theirs is healthy and robust. CEOs and others in management positions need to be accountable for their corporate culture. After all, a lack of accountability speaks volumes. If a company doesn’t consistently hold people – at all levels – responsible for any misconduct, their employees may use such disregard for a company’s values as a justification for not reporting the poor behavior of others. A company rife with culture problems can lead people to not be as careful about their own behavior and to take unhealthy measures to deliver results. If people doubt a company’s commitment to ethics, they may not feel as committed to their own ethics or even to the company itself.

When people feel their employers are not fully investing in them and their employers are not adequately addressing culture problems, employees in turn will not invest their time and energy into the business. They may become disengaged and allow the quality of their work to slip. Where there is an investment in your employees, there is an investment in a healthy culture, and vice versa. This investment ultimately leads to better business outcomes. 

Corporate Culture as a Competitive Advantage

Will a poor company culture lead to the demise of your business? In a strong market where your products and services are tuned to your customer’s demand and employment is stable, maybe not. But in a highly competitive market where your customers may have lots of choices, company culture may be the deciding factor for prospective – and even returning – clients. Although your products and services should be the focus of your business, it should not be its sole focus. Understanding the integral role culture plays in every aspect of a business is key to its competitive advantage. A weak business model does not include even a consideration for its culture. A sustainable business model takes a holistic approach to its corporate culture, which includes leadership, team members, stakeholders, consumers, customers, and even the community.

Solutions

It would be far too easy to just tell your employees you’re going to fix the unhealthy norms and behaviors and will now have ethical values and principles that everyone must adhere to and abide by; that there will be consequences to deviant actions. It’s a good first step, but enabling and enforcing the new, healthy values is what will ultimately lower your company’s cultural risk. There will always be problems in a business. How those problems are addressed is key to outlasting your competition and ensuring growth. Let’s talk about the things you can do about it.

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