Personal Characteristics Required to Change Organizational Culture

The Culture House Managers frequently overlook the fact that culture is “in process” all the time.  Organizational culture is not a static thing that is unchanging.  Manager’s can shape the culture of their workplaces.

The pervading culture in your organization has developed over time and will persist in your work group unless you work actively to change it.

What you focus on,  pay attention to, and spend time on, communicates your values and influences work group culture.  What you reward reinforces workplace behavior.  The reward could simply be an acknowledgment of work well done.

To create cultural change in your workplace you need to develop four personal characteristics:

  • Consistency
  • Congruency
  • Persistence
  • Resilience

Workplace culture can be intractable.  It develops over time through a series of organizational and personal experiences and is communicated through stories.  If you want to change culture you have to be consistent – give a consistent message about “what is valued around her”, “what gets rewarded”, “what is inappropriate behavior” and “the way things are done”.

Managers often fail to understand the symbolic value of their actions.   Many cultural change programs have been abject failures because managers have not been congruent – their actions have not matched their words.  They are unwittingly saying, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say”.

Without persistencee nothing changes.  You have to remember that people are “creatures of habit” and that behavior becomes entrenched over time because that behavior has been rewarded over a long period of time – whether the behavior is “don’t rock the boat”, “don’t question decisions” or any other behavioral norm.

Lastly, but certainly not least, you need resilience.  People in power (whether formal or informal power) have a vested interest in maintaining the “status quo”.  They will fight any change and try to co-opt other employees in the resistance effort.

In summary, then, if you want to create and maintain cultural change in the workplace, you need to develop your own emotional intelligence and be very conscious of the communicated meaning of your words and actions.

Question: What kind of workplace culture are you developing?  What messages are your actions conveying?  How are you developing your resilience?

Photo credit: helgividar

About Ron Passfield

Ron is currently a Director and an Executive Consultant with Merit Solutions. He also collaborates with Julie Cork and Associates in the delivery of the Practical People Management program to Queensland Government clients. Since 1990, he has consulted as a coach to senior executives in leadership, culture and organisational change. Previously, Ron was a full-time lecturer in human resource management and organisational behaviour at undergraduate and postgraduate levels at Griffith University for more than a decade.