Given how smoothly most companies operate on a daily basis, you would think executives and employee perceive an organization’s company culture in the same way. According to a study by Joseph Grenny and David Maxfield, authors of Crucial Conversations, and co-founders and leading researchers at VitalSmarts, this is not the case. After speaking with more than 1,200 employees, managers and executives from companies in a wide array of industries, the study came to a surprising conclusion. In truth, the more senior a person is in an organization, the more positive is their perspective on the organization’s company culture.
The Perception of Company Culture
When describing their company culture to the researchers, managers and executives used words like innovation, initiative, candor and teamwork. In contrast, most employees had a profoundly different perspective. As opposed to such positive qualities, they expressed the true values of their organization’s company culture as being obedience, predictability, deference to authority, and competition with peers.
As a professional employer organization, Total HR Management understands the importance of building a positive communication bridge between employees and employers. This need is particularly true in light of this latest study. Unfortunately, the different perspectives are serious, revealing a warping of perception from the top to the bottom in most organizations. Given this challenge, an organization’s company culture cannot be taken for granted and should be professionally maintained.
Three Examples of the Difference in Perception
Below are three examples of the differences in this perception:
Conform to Policy and Follow the Rules
Employees were 53% more likely than managers and executives to check this off as a key tenet of their organization’s company culture
Clear all Decisions with Superiors
Employees were 54% more likely than managers and executives to say this point was extremely reflective of their organization’s company culture
Speak up whenever a challenge could affect performance
Managers and executives were 67% more likely to say this was truly reflective of their organization’s company culture than employees.
A Dialogue Between Executives and Employees
Commenting on the differences revealed, study author Joseph Grenny said:
There is no way to close this gap without honest, open dialogue. Basically, people say their leaders hype one set of behaviors but reward another — that gap in perception is the starting point for conversation. If leaders are seen as sending mixed messages about what they truly believe will drive performance, they should invite employees to point out this perceived hypocrisy…. Leaders tend to think employees won’t open up—but we’ve seen the opposite. When an executive sits down and truly listens, employees will be surprisingly honest.
Bringing Executives and Employees Together
Given the results, many companies have a lot of work to do when it comes to improving their organization’s company culture. According to the study, only 9 percent of employees have a favorable opinion of their organization’s company culture. Such a low percentage undermines the fostering of long-term employee loyalty and company investment.
The study also showed, however, that when a company promotes the values of speaking up and being honest, company culture change can occur. An important step in such a change is having executives and managers embrace interpersonal skills training. Such training can have a significant impact on the overall health of a company by greatly improving communication from top to bottom.
In the end, Grenny and Maxfield also emphasize the importance of taking action. Listening is not enough because the very act of listening creates expectations. If managers and executives open the honesty door, employees will expect their feedback to be responded to in a tangible manner. At the same time, such positive responses foster long-term loyalty and trust. After all, employees that believe they are being heard are more productive and more invested than employees that feel ignored or bypassed.
Total HR Management Can Help
To learn more about improving employee engagement and your company’s culture, please contact Total HR Management today. Please call (800) 975-5128 today to access the help you need.
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