corporate culture myths

5 most popular corporate culture myths

Corporate culture myths: Today, corporate culture is of great importance in business management. Changing corporate culture through turquoise management, Agile, increased employee engagement and true leadership from top managers is talked about at business meetings and written in the media. 

Corporate culture has come to replace Key Performance Indicators, balanced scorecard, lean management, reengineering of business processes, total automation and team building that have not passed the “clinical trials” everywhere. “Shared corporate values ​​are what will help us become successful!” – think many leaders. This is how myths and vain expectations from the introduction of corporate culture are born.

5 corporate culture myths

And all because any management technology works only under one condition. It is possible to tackle the fine-tuning of the business, including the introduction of corporate culture, when the classic, and therefore time-tested principles of planning, organization, coordination, motivation and control work and ensure business efficiency.

I will cite a few top managers’ beliefs about corporate culture.

Myth 1. Corporate culture is corporate events, team buildings, etc.

We open the website and look at the ads for hr-specialists. We analyze the first one that comes across. In the list of duties, among others: “to lay the foundations of corporate culture and implement them in the life of the company (internal communications, corporate events, team building).”

I remember being interviewed for the position of HR Director one day. I asked the interviewing CEO what he understands by the term “internal communications” and what are his expectations of an HR professional? It turned out that the director is waiting for the timely informing of employees about the events taking place in the company, through a corporate newspaper, an internal corporate portal and other means.

In addition, this includes birthday greetings to employees and management, general corporate holidays, etc. Meanwhile, the quality of internal communications affects the efficiency of the business and the motivation of employees: the speed of making management decisions, the quick response of the back office to the requests of the front office employees, the possibility of a constructive dialogue between employees from different departments, high-quality feedback from the manager, etc. All of the above are the attributes of the regular management system, which, of course, are part of the company’s corporate culture.

I have my own statistics of the reasons for leaving the company of highly qualified specialists. I have accumulated this data over the years, interviewing candidates for open positions and colleagues leaving the company. The top five reasons for leaving include “long-term coordination by internal services of decisions important for business development.” And this is nothing more than a manifestation of corporate culture.

The unconditional belief of top managers in the need for team building has led to the popularity of teambuilding and various kinds of training aimed at developing team interaction. However, not every business needs a team. Sometimes effective interaction between employees is enough, each of whom knows what he is responsible for, what resources he is provided with, and what the management and colleagues expect from him.

And if business processes do not provide such interaction in which each member of the team can perform the tasks assigned to him effectively, no team-building activities in the form of collective parachuting, rafting on mountain rivers, climbing Mount Everest will bring the expected results, will not make the team able to solve the business problems facing it.

An attempt by an authoritarian leader to “team-build” his subordinate top managers leads to even greater failure. Many times I observed how the “commander” who is at the head of the company is the most active participant in “rope courses”, culinary fights, as well as the main star of corporate events and the “soul” of the company.

But at the same time, each deputy of such a leader unquestioningly obeys corporate traditions and participates in such events often without pleasure and against his will. All these amusements do not affect the quality of communications, nor do they strengthen mutual trust, and do not lead to real “command” – the ability to “fly in one flock”, like migratory birds, flapping their wings synchronously, overcome air resistance and increase the flight speed of the whole flocks.

Myth 2. An HR manager is responsible for the formation of the corporate culture

We continue to analyze hr-vacancies on In almost every announcement, other responsibilities of the HR manager include: “corporate culture formation”, “corporate culture management”, “corporate culture development”.

Who really shapes the culture of the organization? I suppose they were originally the “founding fathers”. Then hired managers to bring in their own styles of interaction with people, and employees do their bit too. The level of influence of owners, top managers, and employees depend on the size of the organization. The smaller the organization, the greater the influence of the first person.

The larger the organization, the more subcultures there are. My experience convinces me that any organization is a mirror image of its first-person, the one who makes decisions and influences the processes taking place in the organization. It is his management style, the way of communicating with employees, attitude towards people, a model of making managerial decisions, etc. and create the corporate culture of the company. HR, of course, can influence the formation of culture through the introduction of new values, ideologies, rules and procedures. But without the managerial will of the first person, the process of changing the corporate culture is doomed to failure.

Let me give you an example from practice. The general director of the company where I worked liked to repeat to his deputies: “You should become mothers and folders for employees.” It is noteworthy that the corporate culture of this company could be characterized as a “culture of belonging”. It was a “family-type” organization, despite the fact that in terms of the number of staff and turnover it could be classified as a medium-sized enterprise. In the culture of this corporation, the relationship between colleagues was more important than professionalism.

Needless to say, the subordinates of the “mothers” leaders were not at all independent. They refused to make decisions that were within their competence, demanded the approval of the boss on any issue, shifted their responsibility onto him, were lacking in initiative, preferring to wait for a clear statement of the problem. The “culture of belonging” hindered the development of leaders’ independence.

Only the first person of the company can change this situation, deliberately changing his requirements for managers. HR in this situation can help him in the development of the management team, but only by relying on the conscious choice of the CEO and his willingness to change the attitude towards the role of deputies.

Myth 3. Corporate culture is aimed at the formation of common goals and interests of employees

Many leaders and business owners believe that corporate culture should help shape common goals and interests among employees. But should the interests of the company’s employees really coincide? How does this affect business performance?

Let me give you an example from my own practice. The director of the company in which I worked as an hr-specialist, with the aim of uniting the team of top managers with the help of common interests, acquired all season tickets to an expensive sports club located near the office. In his opinion, it was extremely convenient. It was considered good form to visit the club, and vice versa, not coming to training meant showing disrespect for the gift of a caring chef.

Needless to say, this situation provoked the dissatisfaction of the top team, and here’s why. It turned out that not all of the executives were fans of treadmills and pool – some were playing tennis or dancing. There were those who did not like sports at all. And for others living outside the city, it was more convenient to go to the gym next to their house. As a result, it did not work to unite the employees with the motto “In a healthy body – a healthy mind”.

Attempts to make the goals of all people involved in business common are generally doomed to failure. The bearers of goals in an organization are several actors: owners, top managers, employees, and even the business itself. And the goals of all these subjects not only cannot be the same – they contradict each other. For example, owners need dividends, and employees need pay increases, social benefits, bonuses and other “goodies” from the employer.

Top managers need to fulfill KPIs, and employees need professional development; work that excludes routine; interesting tasks and work-life balance. And it’s not always easy to combine. The challenge of managing an organization is to enable employees to meet their personal interests through business goals. And this is where corporate values ​​can come to the rescue, which are broadcast by the top management of the company. These values ​​are based on a focus on the interests of the business, the success and effectiveness of which determines the well-being of each employee.

And here a lot depends on what kind of values ​​the company’s management adheres to and how faithfully it follows them. Well, if these values ​​are aimed at satisfying and anticipating the interests of clients, then they become the key to long-term strategic business profitability. In this case, the basis for the formation of corporate culture can be customer orientation, proactivity, innovation and company development. exactly what values ​​the company’s management adheres to and how loyally it follows them.

Well, if these values ​​are aimed at satisfying and anticipating the interests of clients, then they become the key to long-term strategic business profitability. In this case, the basis for the formation of corporate culture can be customer orientation, proactivity, innovation and company development. exactly what values ​​the company’s management adheres to and how loyally it follows them.

Well, if these values ​​are aimed at satisfying and anticipating the interests of clients, then they become the key to long-term strategic business profitability. In this case, the basis for the formation of corporate culture can be customer orientation, proactivity, innovation and company development.

Myth 4. External attributes shape corporate culture

It often happens that corporate culture is understood as the attributes of the company’s organizational ideology and brand: slogans, anthems, flags, branded uniforms, badges and other insignia. Attempts to inculcate corporate religion only by singing hymns, using branded pens, and giving praise to the corporation without considering the true interests of its employees often do not bring the expected results.

I remember one day the CEO of the company I worked for ordered gold badges with the company logo for customer service employees. It was assumed that the badges would be attached to the lapels of jackets or jackets of top managers negotiating with clients.

But not all managers agreed, they said, to “poke holes” in suits. And the thing, as it turned out later, was not at all in the jackets. The authoritarian, demotivating style of communication of the first person led to the fact that his team members did not associate themselves with the company, many were in search of other work. And the external attributes, designed to form employees’ involvement in the goals and values ​​of the business, did not help change their attitude towards the company.

Thus, attributes alone are not enough to shape a corporate culture that will drive business development. First of all, it is necessary to change the behavior model of the first person of the company. It is the leader of the company who must set an example, set standards of behavior in relations with colleagues, subordinates, clients, and contractors. These communication models will become the norm for employees and the main elements of the corporate culture.

Myth 5. Corporate culture enhances employee engagement

Personnel involvement in corporate affairs is the number one trend in personnel management today, replacing the more recently prevailing loyalty. However, engagement or loyalty, whatever you call it, is the same. In the words of one business owner, a good employee is one who “whose eyes are on fire”, who “will raise this business with me in the same harness”. How does this desire compare to modern HR trends?

In an era of rapid changes and the development of new means of communication, the expediency of performing many functions in a strictly designated space (in the office) disappears. The new generation of workers, called “Generation Z”, prefers to work not for time, but for results. In addition, the thirst for rapid professional development and gaining experience pushes young people to cooperate simultaneously with different employers or customers in freelance mode, remotely, part-time, etc.

They are not ready to swear allegiance to one employer, “dissolve” in the organization and lose their individuality. They want to live in harmony with themselves, to have enough time and opportunities for their interests, hobbies that go beyond the company and are not always as interesting to other team members. They want to be equal partners, not cogs at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy. Is it not worth it to clarify the term “personnel involvement” in this regard, given that for many representatives of the new generation, the main value is themselves: their personal life, career, hobbies, etc., and not the interests of the corporation in which they are still working.

The keyword is bye. The era of fixed-term contracts, temporary projects, and remote control has arrived. And the corporate culture of the organization should provide for the employee’s right to choose the format of interaction with the company. It is possible that the fashion for engagement will soon pass, giving way to the reputation of each employee’s personal brand.

It is possible that the cooperation of professionals united by a short-term project that is interesting (from a professional and financial point of view) for all team members, will bring no less effect than the loyalty and involvement of employees constantly working in the organization. Therefore, when shaping the company’s culture, it is necessary to take into account new trends and the changed attitude of employees to the advisability of uniting in an organization and choosing a form of relationship with employers.

So, corporate culture is a too complex and multifaceted phenomenon that cannot be simplified into attributes and formally prescribed rituals. Corporate culture is intangible norms, traditions, rituals. These are ways of making managerial decisions, attitude towards employees and customers, rules of interaction with partners and contractors.

The corporate culture can and should be transformed depending on the business goals of the company. But at the head of the process of change should be the leader of the company, with all his actions showing the reference models of behavior.