Why Your Organizational Culture May be Sabotaging Your Success

organization culture and trust

How Duplicity in Organizational Culture Killed the Mother of Invention

I remember my first position as a school administrator. I was very young and naive. Of course, I had this eagerness not only excel but to make my building a place that students, parents, staff and stakeholders wanted to be a part of. Easy, right? I soon realized

that not only was the culture of the school a long way from being that place I desired but also the staff had not bought into the idea that this was a possibility and let’s be honest, who wants to come to work and hate being there? It was at this moment that I really began immersing myself in literature on organizational culture and employee satisfaction. If you want people to follow you down an uncertain road, they must believe in what you’re selling!


Successful businesses are built on many things, but one important factor is the relationships built within the organization. At the helm of those relationships is trust. Going down the proverbial “rabbit hole” takes a certain amount of trust. This obviously doesn’t happen overnight. Instead it’s a slow and gradual process. A process that makes each member of the team not only feel valued but that they are just that, a part of a team. Sandy Clarke wrote, “one of the easiest pitfalls for leaders is the idea that they automatically command trust by virtue of their position. What leaders actually command – at least for a time – is compliance.” Compliance is great for task completion, but it is nothing when it comes to moving your mission and vision forward and ultimately impedes the growth of positive organizational culture.

So how do you begin to create trust within your team?

  • Be a leader that is approachable. As reiterated by Nancy Tannenbaum,  creating an open door policy and a collaborative approach to communication can revitalize and engage members of the team thus increasing productivity and  invoking passion and creativity.
  • Empower your staff. I get it. The bottom line falls on you as the leader, but what if you thought about that differently? What if your team began to really view all successes as team wins and all failures as team losses? That buy in comes from empowerment. A Harvard Business Review article discussed a meta-analysis that was conducted on leaders empowering staff – examining the results of 105 studies, which included data from more than 30,000 employees from 30 countries. This study looked at whether an empowering leadership style was linked to improved job performance. “The analysis yielded a few main results: first, empowering leaders are much more effective at influencing employee creativity and citizenship behavior (i.e., behavior that is not formally recognized or rewarded like helping coworkers or attending work functions that aren’t mandatory) than routine task performance. Second, by empowering their employees, these leaders are also more likely to be trusted by their subordinates, compared to leaders who do not empower their employees.”  Empowered staff are loyal, they are committed to the organization but first and foremost, they are committed to the team!
  • Respect your staff. The Respect Research Group and the Rotterdam School of Management conducted a survey on respect in the workplace. They surveyed roughly 500 employees. “Employees were asked how they rated issues of respect with their colleagues and supervisors, and how they ranked interpersonal workplace respect compared to safety, salary, and career opportunities. The most popular response to this survey was that employees needed a supervisor who treated them with respect. Respect scored much higher than the importance of having a high salary or excess time for leisurely activities.” Simply put, employees are happier and motivated when they are and feel respected, when they are talked to with dignity and decency and their leader values their knowledge and expertise.

Time and history have shown that organizations have met success leveraging one of the four types (Quinn and Cameron) of organizational cultures.  While there is an extensive list of variables which affect the resultant culture, which lives within an organization, there are certain truths about human nature which prevail to long-term success of organizations.  The evidence overwhelmingly supports that a happier employee is more productive and creative. And by every measure, productivity and innovation have always served as the stalwarts for corporate success. The challenge for organizations – avoid mistaking “compliance” for buy-in and misjudging participation in team-building exercises for enthusiasm. If your silent culture reverberates something else, these exercises may be like funerals – everyone goes, but no one wants to be there. Only in an environment where trust and respect exist can your culture bring the best out of your people and thereby allow the organization to reach its true potential.

Want more on how to impact your workplace in a meaningful way? Contact Chicago Executive Coach – Taylor-White

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