Bridging the Divide: Aligning Culture Factions

Bridging the Divide: Aligning Culture Factions

In our previous blog, we discussed how culture is an extension of its leader.  The way a leader treats his employees and customers is a direct representation of him and his values.  And living out these values is what creates culture.

Although culture is always at play, it is something that needs to be intentionally defined, worked with and ritualized.  But in many cases, culture is a hovering presence that employees, and even sometimes leaders, have a hard time defining.  They understand the feelings and experiences that correlate with the culture, but find it difficult to explain to others.

As companies expand, however, this ambiguity can prove to be a critical downfall.  Most cultures who are not intentionally defined will be driven and created by the dominant personalities within the business, or even outside of the business. The danger of this is that the stronger the personality, the more the culture will gravitate toward that personality. Equally dangerous is multiple strong personalities who drive competing cultures that work against each other and divide the organization.

A Divided Company

A culture that is not defined will be driven by the personality of new hires that come into the organization.  The process goes as followed:

  1. A strong leader starts an organization driven by their values and operational skills.
  2. The leader hires other people who oftentimes are good hires from a skill set standpoint but may not share the same values of the initial leader.
  3. The new employees (with strong personalities) begin driving culture that may be in conflict with the existing culture. This isn’t because they are trying to be in opposition, but simply because the cultural expectations have not been defined.
  4. As you hire more individuals who have strong skill sets and strong personalities, there are more competing culture and values.

Performance issues, an impaired ability to work through conflict, and an impaired ability to cooperate are all dictated by competing culture and values.

When competing cultures are in existence, rules of engagement and interactional styles all come into play. For example, one strong individual in an organization may be really focused on performance; another strong personality that was hired is more into process, or connecting people and building relationships. All of a sudden, these two develop into competing culture sets and create two factions within the organization. The people working with those individuals will also become competitive and non-cooperative. However, this isn’t to say that either one of the cultures is bad.

The reality is that, in order for an organization to work, performance, process, and good relations need to all be included.  The lack of foundation creates competition and a dysfunctional environment — not because of people’s performance or skills, but because of the inability to define how they’re going to interact effectively within the group to be successful. Intentionally defined values and beliefs are critical to create a foundation so that people know how to cooperate, how to work with each other, and what is expected of them to be successful.

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