Culture Crashers

The Culture Crashers

  1. May 6th, 2024  | 

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Published in Accountability, Leadership, Organization Health, Reputation

Party crashers aren’t new. Every year, people make headlines by strolling uninvited into private parties.
The uncomfortable reality is that every business has its crashers. The irony, of course, is that unlike a party crasher, the people crashing your culture have been invited into your organization.
These culture crashers survived a hiring process and managed to beat the system. Now they’re hanging around your organization wreaking havoc with the high-performance culture you’re building and nurturing.
It’s hard enough battling the world outside your organization without having to fight discourtesy, turf wars and inefficiency on the inside. So if people in your office show behavior that doesn’t match the values you say are important, look in the mirror. Your credibility as a leader is at risk and your organization’s performance is suffering.
Are any of these characters crashing your culture? Do you recognize yourself?

The Control Freak. Doesn’t trust anyone or anything so this crasher can’t let go and, as a result, is always doing someone else’s job . . . except their own. Erects barriers to their colleagues’ initiative. Loves the dopamine hit derived from doing rather than delegating.
The Monday Morning Quarterback. Armed with 20/20 hindsight, this second-guesser says little of substance before a decision is made, and then spouts off afterward about what they would have done differently.
The Sugar-Coater. Willing to address 90 percent of what needs to be said but avoids, downplays or glosses over the difficult 10 percent that can drive positive change. Unwilling or unable to talk about tough issues that must be addressed to improve organizational or individual performance.

The Fire Fighter. Rushes in to save the day but cannot or will not prevent the problem. Occasionally lights fires in order to play the hero.
The Know-It-All. As the unofficial expert on everything, this crasher has rarely met an idea of theirs that wasn’t the best solution. Tone deaf to other possibilities.
The Cover-Up Artist. Dodges responsibility by deflecting blame to others. First in line, however, to take credit, regardless of whether they were responsible for success.

The Empire-Builder. More interested in how many people report to them than developing talent, fixing problems and getting results. Loves calling big meetings to preside over their empire.  
The Joker. Pokes fun at principles, policies, projects and people. Everything’s funny to this crasher, except him or herself, which they take far too seriously. The Joker’s deadlier cousin is The Assassin, who’s more vicious in the ruthless approach to dispatching anyone or anything not to their liking.
The Sandbagger. Protects budgets, goals and deadlines with plenty of cushion to ensure underwhelming results. Has never seen a stretch goal that couldn’t be shortened.

The Gossiper. Spreads rumors and loves to dissect problems while rarely suggesting a solution. Lacks the character to speak directly to the people who are the subject of their rants and subtle put-downs. Avoids conversations with the people who can fix things.

The Dictator (aka Emperor, no clothes). Typically ostracizes employees from important assignments and critical meetings if they answer tough questions honestly. Often penalizes those who identify and report problems.

The Quitter. Surrenders at the first sign of difficulty. Is tired of the fight but not the paycheck.

As a leader, you get the behavior you tolerate. So like a lot of tough decisions, deciding how to handle a culture crasher in your organization may be a decision that falls to you.

You have two choices.

You live with the unwanted behavior. If so, what’s the cost to your personal reputation as your colleagues see you let some people get away with behavior that’s counter to your values? What are these culture crashers costing your firm’s morale? What’s the cost to your organization’s performance as distractions multiply, deadlines pass and productivity drops? It’s hard for most culture crashers to change their behavior. It doesn’t mean they can’t, simply that it’s more likely they won’t. Coaching rarely helps because their toxic behavior is part of who they are.

Your second choice is asking them to leave.

When you ask these crashers to leave, people will thank you and wonder what took you so long.

You’ll feel lighter. 

About the Author: Greg Bustin advises some of the world’s most admired companies and leaders, and he’s dedicated a career to working with CEOs and the leadership teams of hundreds of companies in a range of industries. He’s facilitated more than 250 strategic planning sessions, he’s delivered more than 600 keynotes and workshops on every continent except Antarctica, and he coaches leaders who are inspired to take their career to the next level. His fourth leadership book— Accountability: The Key to Driving a High-Performance Culture (McGraw-Hill) —is a Soundview Executive Best Business Book.


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