Culture Tells

January 27th, 2017 | Posted by:

I don’t play poker, but have heard that people who are good at it are good at reading what they call the “Tells” of their opponents.  Basically, they observe body language carefully and come to know the signs of a good hand or a poor one.  An eye twitch, card rub, or particular placement of sunglasses, hat, or  finger can be indicative if a person does the same thing each time they encounter a similar situation.

Recently, I was perusing job ads (pays to know what’s happening in the markets where we recruit)  and I saw this:

55% OF OUR STAFF HAVE BEEN HERE FOR MORE THAN 5 YEARS

In an age where the average tenure has become less than 18 months, this statement is a major tell.  Stand alone, it could indicate either the company keeps dead weight or it is a great company to work for, but when promoted alongside

WE CARE!!!! – GREAT PEOPLE IN ALL DEPARTMENTS

If true, these are usually signs of a good Culture.

High absenteeism, grievances, theft, conflict, turnover and/or mistakes, and low productivity tend to be fairly indicative of a poor culture, but those are metrics which aren’t always widely shared or even tracked.  If you are contemplating a new management job, you should care about what culture you are walking into.  Here are some of the warning signs of culture problems to look out for:

Red and white caution sign with an exclamation point

  • Unnatural Silence,
  • Furtive Glances- E.g., “can you believe she said that?” and “help, I am trapped, take me with you!” expressions,
  • Smelly/ Dirty workstations (beyond what is normal for the industry),
  • Heads Down/ Slouching- Notwithstanding those people who like to slouch, if everyone is keeping their heads down, look for who they are ducking from,
  • No “Good Mornings” and “Good Nights”- Common courtesies grease our relational “wheels” and the absence of them is concerning,
  • Petty (and not so petty) Unkindness- Things like gossip, blaming, taking credit inappropriately, offensive joking, excluding, etc. are all indicators of culture issues,
  • Silos/ Alliances/ Information Hoarding- If information isn’t freely shared, or if staff seem to have established borders not to be crossed, culture may be the problem.

That is our top 7 warning signals of culture problems.  Do you have any other culture red flags you’d like to share?