Earlier last week, I viewed a video, a parody actually, called Office Space: Meeting The Bobs.
This video speaks to the culture that is prevalent in more workplaces than any of us would like to admit, workplaces that operate on the basis of positional power with an undercurrent of fear. And it suggests that the primary task of many of its employees is to find ways of being paid while doing as little as possible.
While it is a clever film, it highlights very disturbing things that go on in some organizations. They are disturbing to me because I recognize them. I have seen them. And, over the course of my career, I have also occasionally done some of these things as well.
What was more disturbing were the number of comments from a myriad of viewers applauding the perspective of the young man who presented his tardiness, lack of focus and apathy as a badge of honour. He is, to some, a kind of hero who has the temerity to expose and deride the cultural norms of his company… one guy against the Establishment uniformed in uber casual jeans, flip flops and attitude.
Organizational culture is something that, in so many companies, is ignored and yet its impact runs deep, and to me, ultimately dictates an organization’s level of long-term success and employee contribution.
While my personal experience in the workplace, has, from time to time, been depressingly similar to the atmosphere portrayed in this video, I know there are companies out there who see the value in nurturing a different kind of culture.
Zappos.com is one such company. Zappos is essentially an online department store but the video does a better job of explaining who they really are:
While some of Zappos core values are pretty traditional, there are some quite unique ones like, “Create fun and a little weirdness” and “Be Humble”. What this suggests to me is that they have actually spent time thinking about what kind of culture they want to create and the kind of people who would be happy working there. Simply put, Zappos may not be the place for everyone but they work hard at ensuring that it is the place for everyone who works there.
I think for me, the bottom line is that paying attention to the kind of culture you want to create and sustain is a critical leadership function. Ignoring it, or paying lip service to it, creates unwanted resistance that gets in the way of healthy productivity and long-term sustainability.
Some things to think about
What kind of culture exists in your workplace?
Does it serve you or get in your way?
If it gets in your way, what kind of culture would you create if you could start again? How might you influence change in that direction?