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The danger of a false culture

In every organization there is a difference between the reality of the organizations’ culture and the culture the leaders’ desire. The leaders then try to drive the culture in the direction they want to go. This is normal and expected. However, this creates an issue which needs to be addressed. How will the organization present the culture to the outside world? I have seen organizations who try to present where they are moving toward as their current culture. But, this culture does not yet exist. In this case there is a fundamental difference between what they are representing and the reality.

A false culture creates employee turnover and lack of engagement

I have worked with some organizations who try to communicate both the current and desired culture. This is difficult to say the least. You will also have a difference in the culture by department. In every case, there will be elements of both cultures at differing levels in different departments. Employees being hired are fully expecting to find the culture being communicated in their department. When they arrive they find a gap between what they had been told and the reality.

These differences can be created by many things. Generally it is either due to managerial and/or operational differences. The employees are only seeing the difference and do not care why there is a difference. The employees are also only going to see the negative differences. Shortly after arriving, the new employees will have off-line discussions with other employees. It is at this time, the negative feelings are cemented in place. This is when the new employee will have the first thoughts of leaving.

The negative feelings will quickly spread and poison the candidate pool

The organizations interviewers will soon be getting questions from the candidate pool. These questions will revolve around the difference in what the candidate has heard about the culture. The questions are generally quite direct about what the culture truly is. They will ask about the gap between what the organization says and what they are hearing from their friends who are employees. I have seen some organizations have their candidate pool dry up.

In many cases, the answer is to realize and communicate the differences in culture which exist. As I stated earlier, operational differences between departments inherently create differences in culture. Communicating this to the candidates ahead of time goes a long way to solving the problem.

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