It’s time for some honesty . . .

Honesty and franknessOne of the principles of assertiveness that I encourage others to adopt is . . . be honest . . . about what’s relevant.

And when we’ve got the hang of being assertive, that’s usually pretty easy to do.

So I might learn to feel really comfortable giving you feedback that’s about your performance, about something you said at a meeting, about your timekeeping . . . and I learn to understand that I don’t need to add that I don’t like your tie, or that I’m not sure that your new hairstyle suits you. That wouldn’t be relevant . . . and it detracts from the honesty, the relevance of what I’m trying to convey.

But one area I note where it’s so easy to be less than honest is when we’re talking about organisational culture.

I wonder if some of the problem is that organisational culture is so hard to define? I remember writing about it years ago when I did my degree, and thought I knew exactly why Schein referenced it, why Handy defined it as, “the way we do things around here.” It’s a phrase I’ve heard myself say so many times since, and on most occasions, it suits my purpose, it fits the scenario I’m trying to describe. I get it.

But the more I think about the culture that exists in big organisations, and the more I hear from friends and acquaintances about the culture they experience in their organisations, I’m thinking that there’s a very basic assumption we’re making . . . that we talk honestly about the culture. We say what we mean. We mean what we say.

But there’s the problem. We simply don’t. Thinking about where you work, how many of these questions sound like your organisational culture?

In my organisation . . .

  • people are afraid to give feedback to the senior leaders 
  • we don’t value appraisals 
  • it often feels like we’re skirting around the issue, afraid to say the truth 
  • everyone knows who the bad leaders are, but it feels like no one does anything to remove them 
  • it feels impossible to get rid of people who aren’t pulling their weight 
  • many colleagues don’t trust each other 
  • it feels like an uphill struggle to get noticed
  • morale is really low

Culture has become the alibiThey’re sad indictments of an unhealthy culture, but if no one ever states the obvious and acknowledges that they exist, how can anyone try to improve it?

Perhaps it’s time to have that honest conversation.

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