At work, people tend to follow patterns they believe are desirable. They’ll act differently than they might in other settings if they believe that particular behavior is the norm at work.

The tone is set by either authority or those who seem to catch the attention of authority.

Soon, the herd adopts the behavior patterns. Doing things in particular ways becomes the norm.

For example, if the boss always keeps people waiting, the underlings will tend to keep people waiting. If the boss is short with people, others too become short with each other.

Conversely, when those in authority never make others feel rushed, then employees will tend to be generous with their time to assist others as well. Other positive behaviors follow.

Highly contagious behavior is called “culture” in the business world. It’s how ‘we’ do things around here.

The culture of a business can add to or subtract from productivity.

So what?

What’s productivity? People get things done. People work hard. People are busy. You’re probably happy enough with performance.

Things get done. Sure, there are occasional flare-ups. Sure, sometimes miscommunication causes problems. That’s bound to happen. No big deal.

But it is a big deal.

A negative culture creates an undertow that isn’t always visible from the surface. But people working in a negative culture don’t enjoy their work. In fact, the negativity adds a lot of unnecessary stress. Stress causes errors. Errors deduct from profit.

Of course, your business doesn’t have a culture problem. Side note: Actually, very few business have no room for improvement in their culture.

You’re fine. Things get done. Everybody is happy. Wait… is everybody happy? How do you know that?  In a negative culture, people will not bring up critical suggestions. In fact, they will constantly report on how well things are going. Negativity fosters great insecurity. So how do you really know that things are going so well?

You don’t.

You don’t know even if your business is profitable because it is very hard to measure profit you are not making.

So look for the little errors. Seek out the little problems. Those are the rivets of the submarine groaning under pressure.

How do you fix culture?

Fixing culture is top down process.

That’s as much as I can say about this in a blog post. Improvement to culture and the direct reward to the bottom line is in direct proportion to the effort the top is willing to make.

Chris Reich