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The Culture Bandwagon - We May Need to Get Off

Close people around me know that I don't jump on any bandwagon, and before I get on board with any ideology, I try to understand it from several aspects, which includes my experiences and the experiences of the people around me.

I believe in the existence of a team culture that depends on the people, their personalities, mindset, the processes that govern daily activities etc. Team culture is what is real to people. This is what they experience daily.

However, this is not what companies are pushing. They are pushing high-level agendas that employees seldom experience, like culture events, team-building activities, food, ping pong tables, slides, thinking room etc. But do these pay off, and can they counterbalance working on a bad team or with a manager? Can they offset the toxic behaviour of the manager?

Well, let's hope because companies of the size of 20-30 are hiring Culture Managers earning $110K and spending millions on these events and activities.

However, most employees only engage in workplace activities because they feel they have to but would rather spend that time focusing on their work.

Let's be honest. None of us likes it when HR comes and says, "Hey guys, we are doing this fun activity from 4 to 5 pm, and we have no say in the matter.

Employees describe this as Corporate Prescribed Mandatory Fun. I call it Voluntold when you pretend to volunteer to do something you were told to do.

HBR found that these types of environments make high performers quit. So why do we keep pushing an agenda that is expensive to maintain and drives high performers out of the organisation?

This is where the bandwagon mentality comes into the picture.

Reason 1 - Companies don't want to create a culture but a cult through ritualistic behaviours like chanting values or clap outs. Companies figured out that they can control (temporarily) our way of thinking (mental conditioning with an objective) and impact our behaviour if they push specific agendas like; we stand for something, our purpose, we are a family etc. There is a company that pays $2000 if you tattoo their culture onto your body. Red flag or what? We buy into this, but as we go along and see the reality, we quickly realise they are not true. That is where money is wasted.

Reason 2 - Pushback over workplace issues has become more diverse and challenging to handle. To minimise the risk, they put a cultural agenda framework around it. You can notice this because each time something happens, companies' public apology always includes something like "Our company takes workplace culture very seriously....." It is not bad, but it is done for the wrong reason. Self-protection and not for fostering an inclusive culture.

Reason 3 - Everyone else is doing it, and we all convinced each other it is important. The problem is that instead of looking at what kind of culture we want to build and how to build it in a specific environment, companies started to copy each other, and we all do the same thing at the macro level. Whilst companies' cultures at the micro or team level are pushing people out of the organisation. Oh, hang on! Hasn't HBR said that employees also leave because of cultural agendas? YES! So we are pushing employees out at both levels. Great!

Reason 4 - This is one of the last options to motivate staff who are no longer planning a lifetime career with us. Careers have changed forever, and companies are struggling to retain people. Unfortunately, they devised solutions that drive people away in their desperate fight to keep us.

As Gary Vee said, "Employee culture doesn't come from doughnuts, games, and culture events. It comes from firing bad managers who are actively driving people out of the organisation".

We got this culture game really wrong if you ask me.

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