My (Crazy or Arrogant?) Views on Organizational Culture

Over the years, my clients have come from all business sectors: for-profit, non-profit, not-for-profit, government, large, small, health care, pharma, manufacturing……you get the idea.

I’m trying to check my own arrogance here. There is a phenomenon I (think) I experience when I walk in the door of an organization. It’s called “Getting a strong indication of the organization’s culture by how I’m treated”.

One organization treats me almost like family. I’m welcomed. People say hello, smile real smiles, may even stop and chat. Its a warm, fuzzy kind of belonging and acceptance. (I like it).

Another organization ignores me. Worse yet, I feel scorned. People don’t seem to have the time to give to provide me with directions to my destination. It feels almost physically cold. (I don’t like it).

And then there is every variation of treatment in between. Some organizations require me to sign away my first born child in order to enter the premises. Others are open, and not averse to allowing me to wander. I understand some of this (highly secretive work, or work that is highly regulated will influence this). But some of it seems excessive.

Of course, I understand that I may only be viewing a small piece of the larger organization.

Nonetheless, how someone is treated (even a “vendor” – like myself) when they walk in the door is an important thing for a leader to pay attention to. It may provide clues to leadership style, and the effect that leader has on the culture.

An example to consider might be the difference in the work culture between the Bush administration and that of the new president. What might we expect? How might the culture of the White House extend beyond – to Congress, other governmental agencies, to our nation?

Your thoughts?

I am a former executive in a Fortune 100 company. I have owned and operated an executive coaching firm since 2003 called Aspire Collaborative Services LLC. We partner with great leaders to help them become even greater at developing, improving, and sustaining relationships with the people who are essential to their success. This blog is for leaders and those who help them to be more intentional about relationships at work. My top personal values include respect for others, kindness, compassion, collaboration and gratitude. I work very hard at practicing my values daily and when I don’t succeed, I practice some more. I am married with two wonderful daughters and two spoiled pugs.

2 comments on “My (Crazy or Arrogant?) Views on Organizational Culture

  1. I hope you retrieved your first born child on the way out the door.

    In college days, I worked for a company in manufacturing, night shift.
    Worst job in the place…General Labor degreasing the machined parts.

    But there was hope. It was a Union shop and you could sign up for any job, get more money for the same hours, and need no qualifications or skills, but time served at the plant. I bid on everything.

    In a short time, I worked on every machine in the place. I knew how parts flowed from the foundry, to machining, to assembly.

    Management noticed and offered me a job in Production Control. I knew the flow of product already. But now I was in management, not Union.

    Soon, I learned all the customers, as I scheduled their production to meet their needs and ours.

    Next, I was moved to customer service and put on the phone globally, since I was familiar with, who out there, was buying what in here.

    Next stop, inside sales to market all this stuff and work on profit margins.

    I served 4 presidents in 6 years. The top was drafty position. Most were bean counters and played to the highest echelon customers, plus corporate suits.

    But one President I will never forget. He actually walked out into the shop AND into the foundry. He said hello to people. He asked them to show him what they do at their machine. I was astonished since he was the only top gun to ever do this. I KNEW these people from all my prior years and managed a working relationship with all, because of my time with them.

    One day, this Pres asked everyone to bring their entire family in to the company, no matter what their job was. Each family stood by their family member’s work area, or machine, and looked around at all the other families we had never met.

    The Pres then went to every family at every position in every part of the company, before we had a company paid picnic outside.

    I cannot remember the name of any president at the firm except this guy.
    And, I will never forget him.
    Corporate actually became jealous of the love of the people for this man.
    They moved him out.
    I guess he loved us too much.

    But he took something when he left the place. His dignity, his character, our respect, and love.

    I never rose to president after I watched what they did to people who treat people like people.
    I went to work for myself, and treated folks the way I watched that president long ago.

    Organizational culture is appalling. Fortunately, we are outsourcing every job in the land, and other countries can deal with the bean counters now.

    It didn’t have to be.

  2. Danny,

    Thanks for this story. I have similar lessons to tell from when I was in the corporate world – both good and bad. One of the great things about being a “vendor” is that I see the wider picture. And I know that there are great places to work out there, as I’ve been blessed to experience a few. I hold out hope that there wil be more over time.

Comments are closed.