Signs Your Firm Culture Stinks

Today I stumbled upon a great headline in JDSupra® Law News:  “LegalBusiness Development: Does Your Firm Culture Stink?”

The column is by Paula Black, from Paula Black & Associates.  In it, she referenced a recent article in Fast Company by Matt Ehrlichman – “6 Signs Your Company’s Culture Stinks.”

 1. You’ve got gossips in your ranks. No one likes jerks. But almost as detrimental to being jerky is being a gossip queen. This is the antithesis of transparency and collaboration. Even if it is not malicious, it erodes an organization’s culture and energy over time. Cliques form and employees find comfort in their connection to each other through trash-talking–instead of building relationships based on accomplishments and goals.

 2. Your leadership team has bad habits. Culture is a normative inheritance, much like child rearing. Kids look and act like their parents despite how hard they try to do otherwise. The same holds true in your organization. Your leadership is the best indicator of the entire organization and so employees’ bad tempers, sloppiness, lack of collaboration, and general attitude provide valuable insight into the health of the company.

 3. Your managers’ hands are too clean. When managers are not willing to get their hands dirty with the troops or do hard work, there’s no number of free lunches that can help your company. There are severe culture consequences when managers are disengaged from the front lines and, by extension, your customers.

 4. Your employees are competing… with each other. Competition is great. It’s imperative. I believe that you should compete with yourself. What is not necessary is competing internally. You know you have a rotten culture when employees spend more time competing with each other than with external forces.

 5. You don’t play together. McKinsey coined the airport interview test–-If you were stuck in an airport with a candidate, would you enjoy it? You have to work a lot together in a startup, often pushing through tough situations. These can actually shore up relationships, but only if they exist already. Companies that don’t make time for team building or relationship building outside the office inherently face talent retention risks.

 6. You lack school spirit. Employees should come to work every day more excited than the last. Their attitude is powered by shared beliefs of the organization–employees should have a unified understanding of the key value drivers applied to decision-making. There needs to be a deep care and belief in what the mission of the company is in order to delight customers, develop raving fans and repeat the cycle. The moment an employee stops believing in the company and taking pride in their job significance, your castle will fall.

Ehrlichman sums it up well, and what I particularly enjoy is his word choice that is bound to resonate with most readers.  His statements are clear and leave no doubt as to the offending behavior and its effect on the workplace culture.  New business buzzwords are created daily along with new business trends, but we all understand what he has in mind when he says gossips, jerks, playing well together, school spirit and bad habits.  His language harkens back to basic tenets each of us learned growing up, that are just as applicable in the world of work.

Helene Wiswall

Helene Wiswall
Organizational Development Consultant at ModernThink