Culture: People Quit Organizational Cultures!

by Ron Potter

I read a recent blog by Christie Lindor.  The title of that post was

“People do not quit companies, managers, or leaders – they quit organizational cultures.  Here’s why.”

In her post, Christie wrote, “I had always believed that people quit leaders, not companies.”

I also believed that statement and observed it as well.  Christie then goes on to say

But then I realized that there is probably another way to look at it.  It is more than just leaders.  Organizational culture, in its simplest form, is an ecosystemic mashup of values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, symbols, rituals, attitudes, and behaviors shared by a group of employees and driven by leadership.” (Italics are mine)

While I don’t disagree with Christie, I think there are important distinctions.

Beliefs and Assumptions

In the Denison Culture Survey chart, there is a center circle labeled “Beliefs and Assumptions”.  While that little center circle is often overlooked, Dr. Denison is making it clear that it’s a set of corporate beliefs and assumptions that drives the culture.

In my Culture Introduction blog post I stated:

What is Culture?

A dictionary definition says, “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an organization.”

We hear a lot about a corporate culture being toxic or exciting or silo-ed or productive.  But in my mind, many of those conditions have more to do with Teams and Leadership than they do with Culture.

    • If there is a toxic environment, that’s usually caused by poor leadership that is ego-driven rather than humbly driven.
    • Exciting environments come from leaders and teams developing people to face difficulties and obstacles in innovative thoughtful ways that utilize the skills and experiences present.
    • Silo-ed environments happen when teams are unable to work through their difference and reach a committed direction or approach.
    • Productive environments exist when teams learn how to elegantly use the resources they have to get the most out of an organization in a simple way.

Focusing on “culture” doesn’t cure any of the identified difficulties.  Building better teams and leadership improves those issues.

I believe Christie and I are saying the same thing.  However, I believe it’s important to distinguish between Team, Leadership, and Culture.  It’s difficult to correct issues of “Culture” without acknowledging that its Leadership and Teams that cause the Culture issues.


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