‘This is What Happens Here’ – Why Workplace Culture Needs to Change
Another incident in the office, another employee being shouted at and subsequently fired.
“That’s just what happens here.” says Steve, a staunch supporter of ‘this is the way things are’, not ‘this isn’t the way things should be’.
Steve isn’t alone in his acceptance of poor workplace culture as a result of inadequate communication and issues that are never addressed.
Netflix recently made headlines when three senior film marketing executives were alleged to have been dismissed after venting about management on the work/messaging app Slack.
Though the stories have been claimed as false by Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos, who states that the incidents were over a period of several months and directed towards peers (not management), and that Slack was not actively monitored, it still created a discussion around workplace culture.
“You only say things about fellow employees that you say to their face.”
What makes the situation around Netflix unique is a combination of the discussions around privacy with messaging channels such as Slack, and also Netflix’s company culture that relies on intense transparency.
Under a company culture that values transparency and feedback highly, it naturally follows that venting over a public (though this was not known to the executives in question) platform isn’t going to go down well.
Yet how many times has the opposite been true?
That a company with a divisive, toxic culture will punish staff for venting or questioning practices and policies in a workplace that has contributed to these actions?
How can employers push for attributes and actions from employees that the workplace is actively stifling?
We want our team to be hard working, collaborative, communicative, compassionate, inclusive…
Yet our workplace is hierarchal, archaic, values performance over health, and actively works against the equality of all employees.
It’s easy for an employer or upper management to claim their company culture is one thing, whilst employees are having an uphill struggle as they’re running up against a culture that doesn’t align with them.
Productivity and metrics are often historically valued more highly in some corporate cultures, making culture change seem like an impossibility.
If all employees are resigned to “this is the way things are done around here,” then the collective effort is already diminished.
Like shouting at a brick wall, company culture will never change when there is complacency.
Venting is a symptom of company culture, not a cause of it
Netflix kickstarted an important debate around venting from a privacy perspective, but what is lesser discussed is how venting is a symptom of poor workplace culture.
Venting usually stems from frustration around issues that employees themselves do not have the means nor the hope to resolve.
(This does not apply to people who call their boss names at the Christmas party as a means of venting their frustration.)
Tight deadlines, overtime, inflexibility, favouritism – venting is a way to express frustration around a workplace culture.
Talking about what you consider to be your workplace culture doesn’t suddenly will it into existence, as it takes action and consistency, but most importantly, a genuine conviction to change.
If not now, when?
The issue with such blasé complacency is that the same oppressive, stifling systems will continue to operate whilst everyone within an organisation suffers.
“I want to see efforts towards more inclusive practices!” isn’t going to cut it.
“I want to see less exclusionary behaviour and more respect.” is far likelier to result in action, as it is a definite example of action that can be taken.
Each individual in a workplace should be engaged in the process of changing company culture, otherwise it’s null and void from the offset because it will be exclusionary.
You’ve probably either been in a situation or seen one where a senior leader in a company has said “we value feedback!”, yet everyone in the room knows that if they attribute their name to feedback, there will be consequences.
Company culture goes hand-in-hand with accountability
In the case of Netflix, the company culture was very clear on transparency, which clearly did not align with the actions of the executives as a result.
With many companies, however, the responsibility for poor workplace culture is laid at the feet of employees rather than employers – responsibility isn’t taken so change cannot occur.
Keeping everything the same under the assumption that habit is more convenient will be detrimental to a company.
Nine times out of ten, most employees will be aware that the ‘way things are’ is total bullsh*t, which is why in order to avoid a full-blown debacle à la Netflix, workplace culture needs to change for the better.