My intent with this blog is to cut through some of the huge amounts of research, theories, case studies and general information around culture and sometimes, a great culture may not actually be in the best interests of an organisation. (Controversial I know!)

We do all know that a work place culture is important. We spend around 50% of our working lives at work and there are a plethora of quotes and recommendations around the importance of a great workplace culture.

Some of the comments we see look like this:

“Our work place is great – I love the people I work with”

“We are like a family – work is my second home”

“Our work culture is one that offers flexibility and autonomy”

All these are seriously cool comments to hear if you are a business leader as we all know that a great culture makes a huge difference and in turn helps with engagement and productivity.

But, there are dangers in creating a great culture!

Before I go on, let’s break two words down to clearly understand where I am getting to:


Work is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as:

“An activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”

2. Culture.

Culture is described as:

“Relating to the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a society”

With these definitions, can culture increase work?

Well, the short answer is yes, but you must get it right.

From a talent perspective, you need to ensure that when you hire someone into your business, they need to be aligned to the ideas, customs and behaviours of the business – the values, strategy and competencies.

Then, you need to ensure the activities are clear in order for the individual to achieve the purpose or result – clear KPI’s, measures, feedback and conversations.

Get these two aspects correct and this is a great start – the problems arise when one of these things is more prominent than the other.

Scenario One: Work supersedes Culture

Will you get an environment which is focused on results, maybe micro-management exists and employees do not feel valued.

Scenario Two: Culture supersedes work

The results focus simply gets lost!

So, you need to strike a balance: with a great culture comes some interesting warning signs

1.            The social element overtakes the grind

2.            Distractions become the norm

3.            High performing becomes low performing or non-performing

4.            Activities and revenue decreases

If you see these warning signs across your organisation here are some tips to help fix the problem:

  • Jump on the performance
  • Refresh and redefine goals
  • Keep the focus on this short term
  • Be prepared for the data from the next survey to be lower
  • Make corrective actions

Although a great culture is essential, sometimes a great culture should not be the number one priority for a business.

After all, without revenue there is no business and in turn no culture to measure!

Having a similar issue?

Stephen Cushion

General Manager, Consulting

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