Not so long ago, I was asked to come in and help with the corporate personality, or culture of a company who was experiencing 75% annual turnover. Upon assessment, I found the employees to be feeling pretty depressed and helpless - the way a lot of workers are feeling right now. This is bad for business. When employees are depressed, facts show they are less productive too.
When an entire company becomes depressed, it's often a result of circumstances that management was unable to predict or control. For example, layoffs are affecting lots of companies right now, but I can tell you some will rebound quite easily, while others will fall apart. Here's why...
Every company has a corporate culture that creates a personality for the organization. Some companies actively try to create the personality, while others ignore it and let the personality form itself. And we all know every personality has its strengths and weaknesses. In times of stress, the companies who let the ugly side of their personality control the environment don't do so well. However, those companies that recognize their corporate personality's weaknesses and opt to alter them do much better. So, I ask you: Is your company's personality hurting their ability to bounce back in this economy? To help you decide, let me explain the four corporate personalities at their worst:
Commander: Intense and deadline-driven, work is no place for emotion and there is no such thing as appreciation. Their motto, I don't care what you did for me yesterday. What can you do for me today?
Energizer: Overly-optimistic to the point of being insincere and insane. Their motto, Everything is fine, it's great. Just think happy thoughts, be super-positive and we'll mentally will our company to improve. Now, let's do a team cheer!
Empathizer: Reeling in self-pity, everyone is gossiping doom and gloom, including management. Their motto, I would get your resume out there. This is so bad, get out while you can!
Contemplator: Secretly horrified, but doesn't want the world to know, nor do they want to do anything rash or stupid. Their motto, Let's put our heads down and work. The less we talk about it, the better.
If any of the above personalities sound like your place of employment, then your company could use some help getting back on track. In fact, maybe you even see all four types within your management team - multiply personalities in a corporate culture can exist too. So, what can be done?
The secret lies in knowing how to implement strategies that can pull the corporate culture out of its funk. It's done using a Ying & Yang Approach. Simply put, companies implement some things that are opposite to their personality as a way to pull the culture out of its tunnel vision and restore balance. Let me share an example...
The company I mentioned above had a Commander personality. They were deadline-driven, intense high achievers who prided themselves on hiring the best and the brightest that delivered unbelievable results. Unfortunately, they had a couple of setbacks with the loss of a few key clients that left them reeling. So, instead of stepping back and taking the pressure off, the stepped it up and put the pressure on the staff - the result was top talent leaving in droves. So, how did we fix it? We went 180 degrees on the staff.
We instituted some programs that went completely against the personality of the company. Employee appreciation programs and some changes in rules, along with some staff training to help close knowledge gaps and easy pressure to perform. (I must NOTE the only reason it worked is because the executives of the company were on board and willing to recognize they needed to change the strategy in order to change the results.) But it did work, turnover dropped dramatically, and they got back on track.
In summary, I know there is a lot of corporate anxiety and fear out there right now, and that brings out the worst in corporate cultures. However, employees AND companies need to move past this. The best way to do it is with some innovative approaches that help the personality of the workplace get back to a good place as quickly as possible. Understanding how your corporate culture needs to change is the key. My advice to managers - don't wait! There are plenty of low-cost ways to bring your culture back to a calm state. Just be sure to implement some so your company's personality doesn't get the best of it.
J.T. O'Donnell is the founder of CAREEREALISM.com and CEO of CareerHMO.com, a web-based career development company.