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Defining A Good And A Bad Company Culture

I recently met with an HR Manager that worked for a small quick service restaurant (sandwiches, salads & soups) company that is looking for a Vice President of Operations. To be ‘politically correct,’ they call their HR department the “people department,’ and that follows their titles from manager to vice president, such as Manager of people, Vice President of people, etc. The company is mostly owned by a private equity firm and is based in Los Angeles, California.

Through my conversation with the manager and the way that person communicated (verbally & emails) gave me the impression the company that person works for has a ‘camouflaged culture’ and has no clue what ‘passion for people’ truly means, although they can put on a good show!

That said, I decided to share with you how you can differentiate between a ‘good culture company’ and a ‘bad culture company.’

From strategy and vision to well-defined projects, team members who believe in the organization’s direction are more likely to invest in their work because they know it will make a difference. When leaders and managers don’t offer clear, consistent direction, it’s one of the signs of a bad company culture.

Team members are treated with respect, dignity and courtesy. Leaders support team members and respond to requests, offer encouragement and accommodate individual needs. Leaders live the core company values and are consistent, e.g., they don’t say one thing then do another, which was the case with the HR Manager that I encountered!

Before examining what a “good company culture” looks like, let’s discuss why company culture is important in the first place. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, the common factor all successful companies share is a strong company culture. Furthermore, the Society points out that when companies build, foster and live strong organizational cultures that are built on shared beliefs and values, supported by company structure and strategy, 3 crucial things happen:

  1. Team members know how their companies want them to act and which actions to take in any situation.
  2. Team members trust that the expected action is the correct one.
  3. Team members know they will receive positive reinforcement for following company values.

On the other hand, a company culture that’s weak can undermine a company and its leadership. Instead of success, the results will be high turnover, worker apathy, unhappy guests, customers or clients, and decreased revenue. Therefore, it would behoove all team members, even those that prioritize profits over team members wellbeing, to understand the link between the two if they want to stay competitive and thrive.

Great Company Culture:

What cultural factors matter to team members?

Company culture elements that matter to team members:

  1. Team members are treated with respect, dignity and courtesy.
  2. Leaders support team members and respond to requests, offer encouragement and accommodate individual needs.
  3. Leaders live the core company values and are consistent, e.g., they don’t say one thing then do another.
  4. In addition to fair pay, performance bonuses, benefits, vacation time, personal time, self-improvement and professional development, pensions and 401(k) plans. Furthermore, perks, such as free meals, company-organized events (parties, picnics, holiday dinners) were a particularly effective predictor of whether an employer would receive a high culture score.
  5. Job security is a culture marker that most employers ignore when devising core values.
  6. Coaching and mentoring as key levers for success in organizational transformation.

How to create a positive company culture

  1. Unblock barriers to communication and listen to team members. Afterwards, don’t make promises you don’t intend to honor or have no power to implement. Your words need to be backed by actual actions. It’s better to be honest about the next steps and solutions, even if they aren’t the ones team members want at the moment.
  2. Don’t ignore or discourage differences of opinion and conflict. Allow and embrace team members opinions and ideas, even when managers and senior leaders don’t agree. By allowing the exchange of differing viewpoints, your team members will still feel respected and valued.
  3. Be more inclusive and supportive by inviting people to be their true selves at work. This also goes to respect and support. Plus, by embracing team members diversity and inclusion, there are also benefits for the company, such as increased innovation and development of new products and services.
  4. Asking team members crucial questions and listening to their answers, even embracing those times they don’t feel comfortable answering can help companies gain critical insight into the shortfalls in the company culture and how to make it a better, more attractive, and a safer place to work. This is true even when a business can’t offer flexibility and perks, including working from home and unlimited vacation.
  5. Coaching and mentoring can help organizations develop and maintain a positive workplace culture. To help you examine your current workplace culture and open a meaningful dialogue between leaders and team members, professional coaching and mentoring are invaluable. Coaching and mentoring for positive company culture results in happier team members, higher productivity, improved team members engagement and higher team members retention rates. Find solutions and ways to assist you in developing and improving a strong, positive culture at your company that attracts top talent, values higher level of productivity, celebrates success, fosters effective leadership and raises revenue and profits.

Characteristics of a bad company culture

1. Lack of team bonding and communication

2. Unmotivated team members

3. No recognition or validation for your work

4. Unstable work-life balance

5. A lack of company and project direction

6. Scope creep

7. Extreme criticism

8. Bad reputation and reviews

9. Aggressive political opinions seep into the workday

10. Competition over collaboration

11. The absence of core company values

12. High turnover rates

13. Pay does not meet the responsibility level

14. Team Members rarely take proper breaks

15. Sense of boredom and unhappiness Broken promises, unmet expectations, and an immersion in ‘politically correct’ behavior