Are International Cultural Differences Impacting your Business?
Guide to Leader and Team Coaching
GLOBAL TALENT SOLUTIONS
10 signs of toxic culture
Organisation culture is the key driver in a achieving objectives. As Peter Drucker would say “ Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. So, it’s important to watch for the signs that show you’re moving from a healthy to a toxic culture before it’s too late.
Here’s what to look out for in no particular order of importance:
1. High Staff Turnover
An obvious one. Generally speaking, a rate of 10% is acceptable as it allows for promotions and new blood to be hired without a massive talent and information drain. Beyond this, without knowing why, would suggest you need to look deeper and more likely at your culture.
2. “Deep ending” people is the norm.
Is it common that people are thrown in to new areas of work or projects and “learn to swim” themselves? Careful now! Getting the balance between certainty and uncertainty for people is a tough call. Too much uncertainty and burnout happens, a sure sign of an unhealthy culture.
3. Deadlines are missed.
Deadlines being missed are not just occasional and with good reason but endemic and part of “ how things get done around here”. Usually this points to a lack of willingness to take responsibility. Again pointing to culture
4. Poor Communication
People keep to themselves or share thoughts and information with just one or two other people. Silo mentality is abundant.
5. Recognition or rewards don’t reflect performance
Recognition and reward form a key component of ones career. If there’s a lack of “fairness” or even perceived fairness people will probably feel unappreciated. This leads to dissatisfaction and negativity. Not what you want in your organisation.
6. Being busy is a badge of honour
Looking busy, rushing about is part of the currency of the organisation. And more so than actually achieving objectives! Get clear on the straight line relationship between goals, roles and processes
7. Speed Of Action
Things do get done but a lot slower than you would think. Especially when compared to other departments or competitors.
8. Sick days are high
A toxic culture is felt by the employees almost by a process of osmosis. Sick days are high, mental health issues increase. The environment is said to be unhealthy without really knowing why.
9. No time for relationships or empathy
The organisation emphasis is on getting the job done, personal issues are not considered. There’s little or no time for small talk, celebrations, team or organisation socialising that are necessary to build relationships and team spirit. What well adjusted person wants to spend a lot of time in such an environment?
10. Work hours are rigorously kept to
9 to 5 hours or close to it are always stuck to. Even if there’s an need, however occasionally, to “go the extra mile” if it’s not within the “working hours” it’s not done.
Changing your organisation culture is a challenging process, but it is not impossible. It can be turned around with buy-in from your staff and leadership or find new ones who share your vision and recreate a positive corporate culture.
GLOBAL TALENT SOLUTIONS
If your staff aren’t speaking up it could be your culture
When your employees speak up, your organisation benefits! If your employees feel comfortable sharing their opinions and concerns or making suggestions, your company then becomes better at dealing with potential threats and opportunities. However, the reality is that very often, employees don’t voice their concerns, ideas or opinions.
In general, there are two viewpoints on why this is the case. One of these is the personality perspective, this suggests that employees lack the inclination to speak out about important issues. This may be because they are too shy to skillfully express their points of view to their team. This perspective prompts solutions such as hiring new employees who have more proactive tendencies and who are more likely to voice their views.
The second point of view is situational perspective, which argues that employees don’t speak up because they feel that their work environment is not favourable for it. They may be afraid that they will experience a significant social cost for saying something that questions their bosses. As a result of this perspective, solutions which concentrate on how managers can establish the right social norms which will encourage employees to voice their opinions and worries without fear of punishment.
Kakkar and Tangirala wanted to find out which one matters the most and state that if personality is the main predictor of speaking up, then the situational factors should not really matter. This means that employees who are naturally inclined to speak up will be the ones that do so the most. Alternatively, if the environment is the main driver, then personality should not really be important. Employees would voice their opinions no matter their personalities, when the work environment encourages it.
Kakkar and Tangirala surveyed almost 300 employees and their supervisors for their research. They asked these employees “how likely they were inherently disposed to seeking out opportunities in their environment” This was how they assessed whether or not the employees had a personality predisposed to speaking up. They also asked the employees if voicing their opinions is expected as part of their day to day work, as well as whether it is rewarded or punished. This was how they assessed the situational norms related to their work environment. Researchers had each employee rate their approach orientation and the expectations in their job. When the data was analysed, they found that both environment and personality had a huge effect on employee’s inclination to voice their concerns or opinions. Employees who had a high approach orientation spoke up more frequently than those with a lower approach orientation. Also, employees who thought that they were expected to put forward ideas voiced their opinions more than those who didn’t feel as though it was part of their job.
As a result of their research, Kakker and Tangirala found that strong environmental norms could actually override the power personality had on the employees’ willingness to speak up. Even if an employee had a low approach orientation, they voiced their opinions and concerns when they thought it was expected of them at work. They also found that if an employee had a high approach orientation they would be less likely to speak up if they thought they would be punished as a result or if it was discouraged. The results of the research supported the situational perspective better than the personality.
The research also found that the environment could actually influence how employees voiced their opinions. They spoke up in two different ways, firstly by recognising areas for improvement and second by finding potential threats and calling out poor behaviours which could but safety or operations at risk. Kakker and Tangirala found that when the norms encouraged the identification of possible threats or issues, employees voiced their concerns more in relation issues relating to safety violations etc. However, when norms encouraged innovation, employees spoke up more often with ideas for redesigning work processes for example. This suggests that work norms can encourage all employees to speak up more as well as focus on specific issues which are facing the organisation.
If a manager is working in situations where innovation is important it would be beneficial to create an environment where developing new ideas is encouraged. On the other hand, if they are in a situation where reliability is more important, then creating an environment where speaking up about potential threats would be more beneficial.
From this research we can see that social norms matter if you want to get your employees to speak up and contribute to ideas more. Even employees who are naturally inclined to share their thoughts and ideas will hold back if they fear being put down or penalised. On the other hand, encouraging employees to speak up and rewarding them for doing so will help more employees be comfortable with speaking up and they will do so more often. This will be much more beneficial for your organisation.
Van Dyne, et al (2003) Conceptualising Employee Silence and Employee Voice as Multidimensional Constructs. Journal of Management Studies
LePine, J. A., & Van Dyne, L. (2001). Voice and cooperative behavior as contrasting forms of contextual performance: Evidence of differential relationships with Big Five personality characteristics and cognitive ability. Journal of Applied Psychology, 86(2), 326-336.
Tangirala, S., Kamdar, D., Venkataramani, V., & Parke, M. R. (2013). Doing right versus getting ahead: The effects of duty and achievement orientations on employees’ voice. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(6), 1040-1050.
Kakkar & Tangirala. (2018). If Your Employees Aren’t Speaking Up, Blame Company Culture [online] https://hbr.org/2018/11/if-your-employees-arent-speaking-up-blame-company-culture
Nembhard, M. Edmonson, A. (2006) Making it safe: the effects of leader inclusiveness and professional status on psychological safety and improvement efforts in health care teams. Journal of Organizational Behavior. 27(7)
Kakkar, H., Tangirala, S., Srivastava, N. K., & Kamdar, D. (2016). The dispositional antecedents of promotive and prohibitive voice. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(9), 1342-1351.
GLOBAL TALENT SOLUTIONS
Task-Oriented vs Relationship-Oriented Leadership Styles
It has become increasingly obvious that effective leadership is hugely important in the workplace. If the leadership is not effective, problems such as poor productivity, low motivation and high turnover can occur. In the current market, there are many new opportunities available for employees and so if employees are not happy it is very likely that they will go elsewhere. Leaders often don’t think about the type of leader they are. Generally they fall into either the task-oriented or relationship-oriented leadership style.
Task Oriented Leadership
This type of leader focuses on the tasks that needed to be carried out in order to reach goals. The leadership style here can be described as autocratic. Autocratic leaders don’t involve their team in decision making. Task-orientated leadership involves some task management features. This involves placing emphasis on administrative activities, co-ordinating job-related activities, preparing financial reports etc. As we can see leaders who opt for this style focus on completing tasks in order to reach targets. This type of leader doesn’t really care about relationship building or the employees who are needed to reach these goals. They are more concerned with following their plan to reach organisational targets.
One of, if not the biggest strength of this type of leadership is that all tasks are completely to a high standard in a timely manner. These leaders set an example for employees by focusing on the necessary procedures in relation to how tasks as completed. As a result, they can delegate work and make sure that tasks are completed on time to a high standard. This style of leadership would be suitable in well-structured environments like for example manufacturing assembly lines where repeating well-defined processes produces high levels of both productivity and quality.
Some of the weaknesses associated with this leaderships style involve a fear of breaking the rules among employees, this may lead to a lack of creativity, low morale and as a result high turnover. A lack of innovation which can come from a fear of taking risks, means employees who are naturally creative can become demoralised and eventually leave the organisation to find a more appealing opportunity.
This type of leadership focuses on creating success as a result of building lasting relationships with employees and the motivation, job satisfaction and work-life balance of their employees. They still care about getting tasks done, however they believe that work culture is more important. Leaders who use this style concentrate on motivating, supporting and developing their employees. Relationship oriented leaders also promote collaboration and teamwork, by encouraging communication and building positive relationships. The welfare of employees is the top priority for these leaders and as a result, they put time and effort into meeting their employees individual needs.
One of the strengths of this leadership style is that these leaders establish teams that all employees want to be a part of. Members of these teams are often more productive and willing to take risks because they understand that they will get support from the leader if necessary. Another strength is that employees are in an environment where they know their leader cares about there welfare. These leaders know that work place productivity requires creating a positive environment where employees feel motivated. As a result, these leaders prioritise people in order to ensure that issues such as personal conflicts, dissatisfaction and turnover are low.
One of the weaknesses of this leadership style is that focusing on creating team spirit may get in the way of completing tasks and reaching goals. Some leaders can put the development of their team above tasks.
Over the years, studies have been conducted in order to determine if one type is better than the other, however no one behaviour is instrumental to the success of a leader in every situation. The dynamic nature of leadership determines that if a leader is effective, they should be able to balance both types of leadership styles which should be applied in response to a particular situation. This involves some level of self-awareness, you need to work out which style you fall under and take note of when you may need to change up your style to suit a particular situation. If for example you are task oriented you need to soften up, this can be difficult, but it is very important. Start by trying to brush up on your ‘soft’ skills such as listening. For relationship-oriented leaders, they need to do the opposite and toughen up. This could be by being more decisive and setting standards.
Penn State (2013) Balancing Task and Relationship Behaviors [online] https://sites.psu.edu/leadership/2013/05/20/balancing-task-and-relationship-behaviors/
Bell, S. (2017) Task-Oriented vs. People-Oriented Leadership Styles [online] https://bizfluent.com/info-12137619-taskoriented-vs-peopleoriented-leadership-styles.html
Larman, A. (2015) Task-Oriented Vs People-Oriented Leadership Styles [online] http://ezinearticles.com/?Task-Oriented-Vs-People-Oriented-Leadership-Styles&id=9253531
Ruzgar, N. (2018) The Effect of Leaders’ Adoption of Task-Oriented or Relationship-Oriented Leadership Style on Leader-Member Exchange (LMX), In the Organizations That Are Active In Service Sector: A Research on Tourism Agencies. Journal of Business Administration Research. Vol 7:1 pp50-60
How to improve organisation performance and culture by managing mood contagion
Mood affects the culture of an organisation
A positive work culture is what differentiates high- performance organisations from less successful ones. The formula is quite exact. The emotional style of leader’s accounts for between 50 to 70% of an organisations work culture (how people feel about working for a company) which in turn accounts for 20 to 30% of the organisation performance.
‘When my mind is full of anger, other people catch it like the flu.’ – Daniel Goleman
Most people have been on both ends of this statement, they have been the one who was angry and in turn affected the moods of the people around them, and they have also been the one who’s mood changed as a result of interacting with someone else. This is called Emotional Contagion. This happens every time you interact with other people, it doesn’t matter whether this is with a group, one other person or an organisation. Our minds react to the emotions of the people around us because we all have a Social Brain.
How does a group of people catch the angry mood of a leader? When you are focused on someone else your brain picks up on signals and processes them through the ‘low road’ of the emotional part of your brain. Emotional contagion runs through this part of the brain allowing for an automatic ‘neural mimicking’ of other people’s feelings. Generally, the prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that adjusts our emotions, this enables us to continue thinking and be present even though we are upset by another person’s emotions.
Emotional contagion happens all the time, at work is no exception, but who is the person who sends the emotions? When there is a group of people, the member of the group who is the most emotionally expressive is the sender. In circumstances where there are power differences in the group, the most powerful member sends emotions and sets the emotional tone for the group. If the team leader is in a good mood, everyone picks up on it and as a result their performance is improved, if however, the leader is in a negative mood, group performance suffers as a result. It is also important to note that people remember the negative interactions with their bosses more than the positive.
If you are a leader, how can this information help you? First of all, you must be aware of your own emotions. Self-awareness is a hugely important aspect of emotional intelligence, another is self-regulation. Leaders who have mastered these skills can learn how to choose their mood. Sigal Barsade is a researcher at Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She specialises in emotional contagion and the impact it has in organisations. She has suggested a number of ways that leaders can manage their emotions and as a result can create a positive emotional culture within their teams. She states is that you need to be aware of your moods and if it is not useful, change it! One way you can do this is by changing your facial expression, the facial feedback hypothesis states that our facial expressions have an impact on our emotions, for example by intentionally smiling you will begin to feel more positive emotions.
Moods are highly contagious
When you are a leader, your team take their cues from you and as a result your mood is hugely important as it has a direct impact on performance, both good and bad. Our moods transfer to the people we come in contact with and they can have just as strong an effect on them as they do on you. You don’t even have to know somebody personally for their mood to affect you. By simply listening to somebody speaking in sad/cheerful tone of voice can put you in same mood as person speaking. How is this possible? The answer is as a result of the mirror neurones in our brain. When we see somebody in for example, a happy mood, the same neurons start to fire in our brains as are firing in theirs. It is a primitive form of empathy (immediate and instinctive reading of another person’s thoughts, feelings etc), and it explains how we ‘pick up’ others’ moods so easily. The closer and more important the relationship the more powerful the contagion.
Emotional contagion in groups and at work
Emotional contagion is very common among co-workers in the same department or team, at meetings, etc. The ability of a team to feel ‘as one’ is incredibly important for the success of the team, perhaps even more important than skill. For example, a wave of positivity or determination, working its way contagiously through a team lights a fire that will help them achieve their goals. Similarly, a wave of defeatism can spread through a team at a rapid pace. The more emotionally connected a group is, the stronger the contagion. The more group members depend on each other to get the work done and for support, and the longer they have worked together, the more contagion there is.
Mood at work counts not just to employees, but to productivity. When employees are in a positive mood at work, they tend to be more cooperative, generous with their time and expertise and more attentive. There also tends to be less absenteeism and staff turnover. When however, there is a negative mood throughout the group, the performance of the whole team can be affected.
When the leader is in a positive mood everybody is more optimistic about getting things done, the team is better at absorbing and understanding information and are more creative and flexible and more effective decision-makers. Maureen Gaffney outlines a number of steps on how to better manage your mood.
How to manage your mood
- Overall principle – learn to reduce how often you have negative moods and increase the frequency of your positive moods.
- Learn to savour your positive moods. – When in a positive mood, don’t try to analyse why this is the case and why it can’t be like this all the time. Savour the moment.
- Try occasionally looking at or listening to something as if it is the first time or the last time I will ever see or hear it. You may see something in a new light
- Occasionally negative moods are necessary and useful. If you’ve had a recent loss or set-back, it is ok and even useful to feel down. However, you do have to actively manage the intensity and duration of the mood so that it does not become counter-productive.
- Become aware of your mood so you can take its effects into account. For example, use positive moods to get things done, particularly the more difficult tasks. When you are in a negative mood, do the opposite. Try to put off difficult tasks, including those that involve other people. Your negative mood will make you more likely to misread neutral responses from other people as negative and will then cause you to over-react. Your mood will also affect the other person, making the whole exchange more tense.
- If you are aware that you are in a bad mood, you can actually decrease the effects it has on your behaviour and you will be likely to act out your mood.
- If you are facing a difficult situation whilst you are in a negative mood, you should try and take a few minutes to make a mental list of all the things you have going for you. Think back to the last time you handled a situation like this and you handled it well. Think about what you did to make it a success? Make a habit of asking ‘What is still going right in the situation?
- Learn the habit of being grateful – Be thankful regardless of your life circumstances. It’s easy to be grateful when the going is good and you are in a positive mood, it is when things are going bad and you are in a negative mood that gratitude is most important. When you develop a habit of gratitude and you notice other’s generosity, you are more inclined to reciprocate.
- Use distractions. Distract yourself for a couple of minutes by doing something positive. This is incredibly effective in breaking a cycle of worrying and rumination
- Plan! – Planning a new exercise regime or setting a date to meet your friends will immediately boost your mood.
- Make a list – They give you a sense of control. complete something on the list immediately, particularly some job that you have been putting off for a while
- Keep in mind you can’t be driven crazy without your full cooperation. We always have some choice to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. But we often hide from ourselves the actual choices we are making. That is at the core of the self-defeating behaviour that often triggers very negative moods.
- Occasionally, you will not be able to change your bad mood. You may be trying too hard. Better to ask yourself ‘In what way can I help myself function better while I am feeling like this?
For more information on your leadership/team coaching click here
Gaffney, M. (2018) Managing Your Mood [Online] https://www.rte.ie/radio1/marian-finucane/features/2012/0915/351652-maureen-gaffney-moods/
Goleman, D. (2016) glad-mad-sad-teams-catch-a-leaders-mood [Online] http://www.danielgoleman.info/glad-mad-sad-teams-catch-a-leaders-mood/