Your Culture Team – Get your team in step with your Culture Change


Ruth and I at a Fairhaven Event

How do you Get your Team in step with your Culture Change?

by Marla J. Noel

Where’s the Trust

Success in employee support of your company culture process depends upon your current relationship with your employees. If there is a reason for your employees to lack trust in you, integrating your employees into the culture process may be difficult. You may have someone else in your company who is a jerk. Get rid of the jerk. Because we learn relationship behavior at a very early age, people rarely change. If someone in your organization is not treating other staff with respect, they may be coached into behaving for a short period of time, however, they are not going to change permanently. Slowly, they will revert back into bad behavior, which is toxic to your culture. As I am sure you are aware, you can have toxic employees at any level. Both senior managers and the lower level of the org chart can create a toxic environment.

The Impact of a Toxic Employee

For several years, I had an employee, a clerical staff, who was smart, fast, efficient and able to understand complicatedly issues. Unfortunately, she would frequently come into the office like a grizzly bear who’d just come out of hibernation. She would growl, complain and curse like a sailor, or perhaps worse than a sailor, no offense to any sailors out there. I would have employees come in to my office and disclose some horrible thing she had said to them. Not only was she toxic to the environment, she was down right mean to other employees.

Coaching doesn’t change learned behavior

I coached her and she assured me that she would change. For a few weeks, she behaved. Eventually, she reverted back to her old behavior, or sometimes worse, as if she had nasty pent up inside, waiting to burst out. I never did fire her. Because of challenges with legal issues, she quit. The work performance of the rest of the staff improved after she left the company. She had been not only nasty, but negatively impacted the rest of the staff and their performance.

Hire Slow, First Fast

As part of WPO and Vistage, I learned to fire fast and hire slow, a lesson learned after the grizzly bear experience. Another employee made it clear that he was not a team player. He would not help with the regular choirs of the business. Again, we coached the employee. The other employees had to pick up his slack. They knew he wasn’t doing his job and they thought, “getting away with it”.  As a result, the employees’ attitudes are impacted along with the overall culture of the business. In addition to negatively impacting the business, we were not able to hire another person who’d applied for the position, someone who would have been significantly better. After coaching only once, I decided we didn’t need an employee who did not want to work. Our consultant, Gary O’Sullivan, regularly reminded us, when people tell you who they are, believe them.

Positive Participants

The first step to getting your team on board with the culture process is to include the most positive employees in planning the culture process. They need to select the theme, the recognition process and a few celebrations. The team needs to drive the boat on the culture improvement process. You should guide and provide boundaries for components of the process, like the budget. You will want to monitor timing on some of the celebration decisions, to make sure the process does not negatively impact business. Overall, let the culture process belong to the employees. They will have fun with it.

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