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Ducks In A Row: Good Culture In A Toxic Environment

by Miki Saxon

What does it take to create and support a good culture below you when the over all culture above and around you is hostile to it?

Sheer guts, a deep belief that what you’re doing is right and lots of oil in your feathers so you can shrug off the ribbing and harassment you’ll take from those on the other side of the cultural fence.

  • Actually doing it starts with a conscious decision that you’re in a place you want to stay in spite of its culture as opposed to indulging a martyr complex, since that alone won’t sustain the effort.
  • Next is an accurate assessment of where the hostile forces lie, what their likely offensive would be and whether you can/want to deal with it.
  • Finally, you must be willing to be your group’s umbrella, shielding it from whatever garbage is thrown and tempering the bad-to-Draconian policies that are outside your control.

What are the rewards for doing it?

High productivity, better innovation, low turnover, easier hiring, more fun, promotions, raises and a better night’s sleep.

Can it really be done?

Yes. I was privileged to become friends with Ray (not his real name) just before his first promotion to management and watched over nearly a decade during which he rose from first level supervisor to fourth level director. And he did it in the Silicon Valley division of a Fortune 500 with an atrocious corporate culture; a company known for employee treatment that bordered on psychological abuse.

People fought to join when an opening in Ray’s group was listed internally and even external candidates lined up to work for him, although they would rarely consider positions in other parts of the company.

Ray once told me that he never set out to create a separate culture, but that when he was first promoted he just managed his team in a way that felt right.

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Image credit: flickr

2 Responses to “Ducks In A Row: Good Culture In A Toxic Environment”
  1. Managing in a Poor Culture « Progressive Managers’ Network Says:

    […] You can read the full post here. […]

  2. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] It may not be easy, but no matter what approach your company takes, or what level manager you are, you can infuse these principles in your own group and shelter them from those above. […]

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