No matter how you define workplace culture there’s no denying that relationship dynamics play a primary role in how we do things and how we get along.
The most influential relationship in the workplace is the boss-employee relationship, and because of this even departmental leaders and middle managers can influence and dramatically shift culture in their own area of control, whether it be in a franchise, a small business or the department of a global company.
With relationships in mind I want to share a model that I introduced in my first book, Stop Workplace Drama. The Karpman Drama Triangle, was developed by Dr. Stephen Karpman who used the model for the purpose of explaining dysfunctional family dynamics. It turns out that it is also a great tool to use in the workplace.
“I’m not sure I can do this.”
I’ve heard these words countless times. You may have as well.
During my 15 years as an executive for the YMCA, one of the globe’s largest non-profits now branded as The Y, I heard these words from a teenager about to climb a rock wall – on belay, but nervous about the task before her. I heard these words from an adult volunteer who has signed on for the first time to help with the branch’s annual fundraising. Her $5,000 goal during the three week campaign was pretty intimidating. I heard these words from a high school junior who was minutes away from running his first committee session in the Model Legislature and Court, even after weeks of training and practice.
When you build a culture of innovation, who benefits? From my work with organisations I’d be fairly willing to bet that your top answers would include customers, employees and the organisation itself.
And it’s fairly obvious why. Customers of innovative organisations receive the benefit of agile solutions which are created in answer to real needs and delivered by exceptional levels of service. Employees working within innovative organisations benefit from working in a collaborative environment which praises and nurtures traits such as empowerment initiative and inclusivity. And innovative organisations benefit from offering differentiated market leading solutions; thereby attracting a loyal customer base, a strong reputation, and increased levels of profitability.
Most leaders know that culture matters. But, did you know that the narrower the culture gap (the difference between current and preferred cultures) the more likely it is that high potential employees will stay?
According to recent research by The Catalyst Center for Career Pathways, the narrower the culture gap, the more satisfied high potentials are with their work and advancement, pay, managers, and organizational commitment to work-life quality and diversity. “A narrower culture gap and greater employee satisfaction combine to predict high potentials’ intention to stay,” according to Catalyst. The report continues, “Women and men high potentials agree on workplace culture: Both would prefer to work in cultures that are more constructive and less aggressive. Both agree that the biggest gap in their workplace cultures is that they are not constructive enough.”
We’re going to accelerate your organizational culture change education with this post. Every leader will benefit from understanding the following critical insights about culture and problem solving, change, engagement, strategy, hiring, and consulting shared by Edgar Schein, Professor Emeritus with MIT Sloan School of Management and the most influential authority in the culture field.
I first interviewed Ed when this site was launched in 2014 and we held a very thorough follow-up interview last year. Ed is continuing to make an impact in the culture field and beyond. He recently formed the Schein Organizational Culture and Leadership Institute. The Institute is dedicated to advancing organizational development through a deeper understanding of organizational and occupational cultures—how they arise, develop, and evolve.
We started this interview with a brief review of culture fundamentals and then probed the connection of culture and important culture-related workplace topics like engagement, hiring for cultural fit and strategy. Culture clearly impacts these areas but the connection is not widely understood and it’s often oversimplified.