Whenever you get that “feeling” that something is off in the company, you’re right. The key is finding and identifying the issue quickly before the business culture changes in a direction you did not intend.
Facebook is a good example of an organization that is very intentional about their culture. They don’t like office politics because they feel it poisons work life. It does. They have identified several tactics that work well to combat this, and admirably, they begin with the hiring process.
They look for people who are not empire builders, self-servers or whiners. They ask several behavioral based questions to determine people who might have these tendencies. One of the questions they ask is, “Can you tell me about four people whose careers you have fundamentally improved?” Brilliant! An empire builder would never take the time to help anyone, let alone four people. Everyone can make up one fake example, but four is difficult. Another excellent question, “What did you do on your very best day of work?” This immediately tells you what the person values.
Of course, we don’t always hire right so you have to be on the lookout when things are not going as well as they should be. Facebook has several tactics they use to help ensure their desired culture:
- Take the incentive out of climbing the ladder – a lateral move is the way to learn and grow at Facebook.
- Be open and transparent – when everyone is having the same conversation, it’s hard for politicians to operate
- Make escalation “legal” – make it okay to discuss what is not working with an individual
- Frequent Q& As with leadership
- Engagement surveys
- Make everyone accountable
- Train leaders to effectively manage politics out of the conversation
All of these are excellent ways for Facebook to keep things on track. I would argue that they are also great for any culture, assuming you don’t want politics to creep into the workplace.
Minding your intentional culture is not simply walking the four corners of the building or taking a survey. It’s a combination of steps and everyday activities that keep your culture on track. If you are not living your culture in every area of the company, cracks will start to form. Once this happens, it’s a quick trip to becoming an unintentional culture. When you see a crack, or behavior, or results, that are not lining up with your stated values and culture, it’s your job to acknowledge it and decide what to do about it. You already know that doing nothing will change the culture for the worse.
It’s akin to weeding the garden when you first spot a couple of dandelions. Waiting until they go to seed will make the problem much harder to solve. This is what happens with people – one person will engage another to behave badly or be unhappy and before you know it, the whole department is non-functional. Culture can change quickly.
So when you get the feeling that things are deviating from the intended cultural direction identify the issue or person, discuss the situation with the employee and manager and decide on a plan of action. If the behavior does not change, change the person out. One untended dandelion in a beautiful garden will always lead to a garden of dandelions.