Toxic Culture

Uber has been in the news a lot lately and F@st Company even wrote an great article on the fact that their problems are a result of their dysfunctional company culture. A Bain & Company survey of 365 companies around the world said that 81% believe that a company lacking a high-performance culture is doomed to mediocrity. Are you set up for success or mediocrity?

John Lankford, author of “The Answer is Leadership” wrote, “Values and norms are the building blocks of a company’s culture. Some companies constantly reinforce their defining principles by displaying them in strategic areas of the building. Other businesses treat them less formally, but no less seriously. In either case, every business – and, often, every team – has its unique “rules of the game” that ultimately define the overall culture. Whether formally displayed or tacitly acknowledged, though, if management approaches those values and norms as an afterthought, doing little or nothing at all to articulate them – the result will be deleterious. It cannot be overstated that your company’s culture is a reflection of its management team – always.”

So what does that mean for Uber and what can we learn?

Well, according to the F@st Company article, it was a product of many small failures. It was an issue for Susan Fowler, the woman who reported sexual harassment against a “well performing” manager. “HR’s failure to provide a safe environment in which employees can report misconduct left Fowler feeling unsupported. In the end, she felt she was left with no recourse but to ignore the harassment or leave.”

In addition, Uber has “company values.” It is reported there are 14 of them, but what do they mean if they aren’t lived by the entire team and backed up by leadership?

So, what can you do at your company to follow in the footsteps of the greats like Disney, Zappos, and others?

1.      Learn from Uber. Don’t just have words that express values, but reward them and initiate them.

2.      Communicate. Again, Uber was doing a lot behind closed doors, be open and transparent in your organization and everyone will see the truth.

3.      Find people like you. Yes, it is important to have diversity on a team, but you want people motivated by the same passion you have and will promote the culture you want to have.

4.      Finally, as Zappos’s Hsieh says, “Chase the vision, not the money.” Be true to yourself and the rest will come.

The culture question is a big one for me while searching for COOs at companies. This is a big important piece and the person you select needs to further your culture goals.