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What’s the Culture Like at Your Company?

What’s the Culture Like at Your Company?

What’s the culture like at your company? That is one my favorite questions to ask people. It’s the big, big question that tells the big fat truth on a non-verbal basis, and usually the verbal kind too. What a person’s mouth doesn’t say, their eyes, facial and bodily expressions will ultimately spill the beans in graphic detail.

This month I tried a new place to get my haircut. For convenience I jotted down to the haircut establishment on the first floor of my office building and was seated right away by a hair stylist. After the usual introductions and instructions, I asked a question that I ask almost every employee of a retail or food establishment: “What’s the culture like at your company?”

This employee was brutally honest. It went something like this: “I have been working here for fifteen years and it’s the worst it has ever been,” she said.  “When I first started it was a good place to work. But a few years later the owner’s daughter took over and she doesn’t treat her employees very nicely.”

Based on her non-verbal communication, I could tell this employee was extremely miserable. What keeps an employee in a hair stylist position for fifteen years? She seemed so down and deflated. As I pondered on these questions, I began to get worried as she wielded that number two razor buzzing around the sides of my head.

She voluntarily told a story about her boss.  The boss (the owner’s daughter) called her on the phone and proceeded to yell, scream, curse and then hung up on her.  “Although I hated to do it, I called the little tyrant’s dad and she later apologized,” the halfway shaking hair stylist said as she relived the moment. At that point she was using scissors on the top of my head and I was praying she didn’t go into Bates Motel mode.  “Well, she doesn’t scream on the phone anymore but she has not changed her bad ways.”

What’s the culture like at your company? In the event you are a company leader, are you plugged-in enough to know the answer to this question? There are only two responses to this question.

#1 Yes, this is a great place to work and we are always trying to find ways to make it better, with the help of our employees and leaders.

#2 No, this work culture is not acceptable but we are diligently working to turn this poor workplace into a great workplace.

Please avoid the attitude of response number three.

#3 No, this is not a great place to work nor are we required to run a fun daycare for unhappy employees. Our objective is to  make money not make people happy.

I work with CEO’s of company’s number 1 and 2.  If you are the CEO of company number 3, your ego won’t allow you to call me for assistance anyway. And by the way, company number 1 makes a great deal more money than number 3.  In addition, it is very likely company number 2 far exceeds company number 3’s profit margins as well.

Here’s the really good news. All it takes to start that journey to a great workplace is to ask this simple question, “What’s the culture like at our company?”

Kevin Kennemer is founder of The People Group based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kevin is driven by his passion for company owners and their need to earn a profit, employees' desire for a positive and fulfilling work experience, and the community that benefits when both groups do well.


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