Four Cultural Viruses That Can Plague Your Organization

Cultural competency is a critical part of what enables us to innovate and execute as an organisation.

To measure competency, we researched over 7000 managers and employees. We found there are four recurring viruses that plague most organisations.

When these viruses exist, an organisations culture and performance suffer. Here are the four most common viruses.

The Personal Virus: A Culture of Resistance

In a culture of resistance, leaders find their ‘go to’ people and solely rely on them to solve the hard problems. In these organisations, only about 5% of the staff are challenged with this. The remaining 95% (the infected) are not even considered.

The Interpersonal Virus: Culture of Silence

This is the most profound viruses in organisations today. In this culture, employees avoid speaking up about emotionally and politically risky issues.
The unwritten rule: “We value harmony over results.” In other words, we don’t want truth here. Between truth and power, we value power.

But when an organisation wants people to make the best decisions, execute collectively, and innovate consistently, they have to speak truth to power.

The Team Virus: Culture of Collusion

With this virus, employees adopt a code of silence about accountability problems. It’s a collusion: I won’t hold you accountable, you don’t hold me accountable, and we’ll pretend everything’s okay.

Unwritten Rule: “Don’t confront me and I won’t confront you.”

But what happens when confrontation becomes possible?

In thriving organisations you’ll find that anyone can hold anyone accountable and they’re more successful because of it.

The Organisational Virus: Culture of Cynicism

How many of you have heard the phrase “Flavour of the Month”? That’s not exactly an optimistic phrase in business. Usually people say it when someone announces a bold new idea. They’re thinking, “We’ll see if that happens!”

Why? Because the idea is contingent on changing behaviour and the organisation doesn’t know how to change.

Unwritten Rule: “Wait it out.”

Is there an antidote?

The viruses are costly. They stifle execution and innovation and therefore limit success. But what if you had the converse?

Organisations where individuals are capable of self-directed change, intellectual honesty, and peer accountability thrive.  When leaders who know how to influence sustainable behaviour change, their organisations begin to execute and innovate like never before.

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