The Yin Yang of Corporate Culture – Look for Balance Not Bliss

Corporate culture: It’s Yin Yang – Not Utopia

When the topic is corporate culture development in the business setting, owners, CEOs and directors often feel a sense of urgency to create a work place utopia where every employee is happy, energized and enthused every minute of every day.  That is just not reality.

Ron Friedman had a valuable piece in the Harvard Business Review in March 2015 that speaks to the realities of a successful office environment. In our practice, we sometimes talk about the quality of yin yang environment where the objective is balance more than bliss.  Friedman’s article uncovers the reasons why, when he dispels 5 myths of optimum corporate culture:

Myth 1: Everyone Is Incessantly Happy. Instead of espousing positivity at all costs, leaders are better off recognizing that top performance requires a healthy balance of positive and negative emotions. Pressuring employees to suppress negative emotions is a recipe for alienation, not engagement.

Our belief is that the office is a valuable training ground for seeking and learning balance in our lives.  America’s workforce spends more time “on site” than in the waking home environment.  Learning balance at work has the ability to teach life lessons of balance.  Our message is that life should be experienced – not endured.

Myth 2: Conflict Is RareMost workplace disagreements fall into one of two categories: relationship conflicts, which involve personality clashes or differences in values, and task conflicts, which center on how work is performed. Studies indicate that while relationship conflicts are indeed detrimental, task conflicts produce better decisions and stronger financial outcomes.

We ask employees two important questions in conflict resolution: is there a quality in your business adversary you rely on / respect, and do you see possible reasons your adversary has the noted mindset. Both questions may bring and “ah ha” reflection. If so, dialogue (that accommodates conflicting views) can produce some very stunning results!

Myth 3: Mistakes Are Few:  Paradoxically, fostering top workplace performance requires a new way of looking at failure. Instead of treating mistakes as a negative consequence to be avoided at all costs (thereby making employees reluctant to acknowledge them), organizations are better off making improvement rather than perfection a primary objective.

Careless mistakes are never excusable. But, legitimate mistakes are. More importantly, legitimate mistakes are often valuable road signs for weak areas of administration. It sounds almost counter intuitive – however sleuthing sources of problems / mistakes in a dynamic organization should be embraced.

Myth 4: They Hire for Cultural Fit. Exposing people to different viewpoints can generate more value than ensuring that they gel.

Global economies do not foster a static environment. We remember in the not so distant past when IBM prided its blue suit/white male/business educated workforce. If hiring for a cultural fit if it means adoption of a lifestyle outside your talent base you can expect corporate catastrophe. What we do suggest is that each talent is allowed their own sense of belonging – it’s that easy.

Myth 5: Their Offices Are Full of Fun Things. To thrive at work, employees don’t require luxuries. What they need are experiences that fulfill their basic, human needs.

Another question we ask employees: when did you last have fun with your work team? Oddly enough, it’s not the rope course or the corporate team rally. Pinball machines in the foyer does not make the team. We like Friedman’s focus on fulfilling basic, human needs. Foster employee successes, allow meaningful failures, recognize individuals and ……. Listen.

Thanks, Ron Friedman, Harvard Business Review

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