Five Corporate Cultures That Will Suck the Life Out of You

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I have often heard the claim, “We Don’t Have a Corporate Culture Here!!!”

Yes you do. You just won’t admit it. It’s the first indicator of living in a culture that is where fun goes to die. The culture is what you walk into every day. Many academic definitions of corporate cultures exist but there are very simple ways to describe it. It’s the way things are done around here; it’s how decisions are made; it’s what it’s like to work here.  If you walk in with a smile on your face and a spring in your step, that is a culture that should be packaged and spread to a bunch of other companies. If you walk in with a sense of dread and apprehension, it’s a culture that could stand some changes.

When I hear the declaration we don’t have a culture here it could mean several things:

1.     We have a culture here but I don’t like it.

2.     The culture here is changing and I don’t like it.

3.     I refuse to recognize the culture that we have developed here.

In any case, the culture that does not want to be recognized is not one that makes one want to show up. Here is a straightforward list of just some cultures that people don’t want to recognize so the claim is that ‘we don’t have a culture here’.

  • The ‘Let them eat cake’ culture – In this world the leaders get all regardless of the performance of the company. Watch for the top people driving around in Range Rovers and flying first class while memos go out about elimination of free coffee. As history proves, there will either be a revolution or the company will fail. It’s a culture on the verge of chaos.
  • The ‘It’s only ten years to retirement’ culture – Ten years is a long time. When people are counting the days and years until retirement it is a sign of a culture that has people feeling trapped rather than feeling like they are doing meaningful work. Looking forward to retirement is a good thing; feeling like a prisoner is not. The culture full of people who feel stuck is depressing.
  • The ‘It ain’t love but it ain’t bad’ culture – Why look for something great when you can settle for something that is mind numbing? Mediocrity is contagious and a culture that settles for mediocrity will create a culture that is not going to grow a company. You can do better.
  • The ‘stick with the ship as it sinks’ culture – It may sound heroic to go down with the ship but it’s probably not. When you hear the phrase, “We are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic” it is a sure sign that you are in a sinking ship culture. Could be time to bail out for a better organization with a better culture.
  • The ‘someday my ship might come in but I will be at the airport’ culture – An organization full of people who are waiting to be rescued is one where there is not a lot of commitment. Hope is not a strategy and waiting for something good to happen without action usually leads to disappointment. This is a culture where people are on LinkedIn all day hoping to be discovered instead of building a company. 

Hundreds of other real cultures exist including empowered employees and market or customer driven ones. Those are the good ones. For lots of companies, a powerful culture is the hallmark of success.

Corporate cultures change and adapt to what is happening in the company but there is never “no culture here”. When you hear that, it’s a big red flashing light that something needs to change.

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