Leaders underestimate culture and their own impact on it

This article was originally published on CHRO.

Culture and behaviour are inextricably linked, but what about that? What influence does culture have on behaviour within organisations? In this blog I share some results from our most recent research and I draw attention to culture.

An organisational culture is an elusive thing. It determines which basic assumptions employees use to deal with internal and external issues. It affects how people perceive, think and feel things. This refers to the behaviour of employees and how they interact with each other. In addition, an organisational culture has a strong influence on the extent to which employees identify with a company.

Culture match to ‘bind and captivate’

Our most recent Dutch eNPS benchmark study shows that 61% of Dutch employees would recommend their own organisation as an employer, if you follow the European calculation.  One in ten employees is a detractor. Together, this leads to an eNPS (Employer Net Promoter Score) of 51. However, when you look at the extent to which the work-related values desired by the employee correspond to the prevailing culture of the organisation, you see major differences. If there is a strong culture match, this results in an eNPS of 77, while in a bad, or even absent, match, the eNPS drops to only 4.

A strong culture match is also expected to lead to a higher performance, if you take the enthusiasm of employees as an indication of this. This increases by leaps and bounds as the match between the personal culture and that of the organisation becomes stronger.  Even when you look at the intention to leave, we see similar differences. No less than 49% of the employees, whose own norms and values do not or hardly correspond to those of the organisation, would like to leave if they could choose freely. Of the employees with a good culture match, only 11% have the intention to change employers.

Culture and transgressive behaviour

That culture also cooperates or works against in the fight against transgressive behaviour, much has been said and written about that. In a previous article I mentioned that an open culture is the most important weapon against transgressive behaviour.  Our most recent research has shown that silos, islands or kingdoms in combination with high expectations and responsibility for results are characteristic of organisations where unacceptable behaviour is experienced.

Leaders underestimate their own influence

Then there is the influence that you as a leader have on the culture and that can lead to a serious culture conflict, which drives employees out the door. For example, at my first job at what was then still called Nipo, the boss regularly asked me to work overtime. I found this quite normal, it was the unspoken norm that everyone regularly worked overtime. This organisational culture has influenced me forever; I’m still a workaholic I’m afraid. However, I realize that now that I am a director myself, I have to be careful with the influence that I have on my immediate environment. In addition, regular overtime is no longer ‘the norm’ among the new generations of employees.

The only thing that really matters to leaders is creating and managing culture. If you don’t manage a culture, it controls you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.”
 Edgar Schein

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Managing an organisational culture is not easy. It is just possible that several (sub)cultures coexist, even in a struggle with each other. This makes managing a complex activity. In addition, leaders must also listen and look critically at themselves, at their own behaviour and the ways in which they unintentionally contribute to undesirable behaviour. Because almost everyone copies the behaviour of a leader.

Ask yourself: how can I ensure that the undesirable aspects of my behaviour have less impact on the workplace?

This article was written by

Irma Doze

Irma Doze

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Gido van Puijenbroek

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