Corporate culture is one of the most important elements to any organization’s success and prosperity. Inc. has an excellent definition of corporate culture (http://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/corporate-culture.html):
“the shared values, attitudes, standards, and beliefs that characterize members of an organization and define its nature. Corporate culture is rooted in an organization’s goals, strategies, structure, and approaches to labor, customers, investors, and the greater community. As such, it is an essential component in any business’s ultimate success or failure.”
A valuable exercise is to stop and think about what behaviors you experience in your organization. In so doing, you must face the fact that the behaviors—good or bad—exist because the corporate culture permits them to exist. That is a wonderful situation if the behaviors are good. It is a nightmare if the behaviors are bad.
We are each going to embrace and affirm a good corporate culture or we are each going to embrace and affirm a bad corporate culture. That is a pretty clear choice in my mind. Let’s embrace and affirm good corporate cultures wherever they may be found. When we come upon bad corporate cultures, let’s challenge them and aim to change them. This is a professional, ethical imperative.
Now, the question arises, how do we change the corporate culture? And before you even try to answer that question, first you must ask the question, can the corporate culture be changed? Because the how makes no sense without the can. Finally, you must assess your role in changing the corporate culture. You have many factors to consider such as:
How big is the organization?
How large is the inertia?
Who are the influencers?
What can you do?
Should you stay or leave?
Let’s consider what might be the most important question, what can you do? You have a voice. You are empowered. You bring a perspective. Never underestimate where your volition might take you and the organization.
Understanding what you can do frees and empowers you to do it. The specifics of exactly what you can do will vary with the situation. You can offer input. You can affirm the positive. You can share your opinions. You can set the example. You can meet with a key influencer. You can challenge the status quo. What you cannot do is dodge the professional, ethical imperative to embrace a positive corporate culture and to change a negative one. You do not have that selfish luxury. The professional, ethical imperative does not permit such action.
Although it is easy to focus on what other people could do or should do, the professional, ethical imperative demands that you take other people out of the spotlight and place the spotlight on you. You cannot control what someone else will do. You can only control what you will do. Understanding what you can do is perhaps the most important step in corporate culture change.