How to change organizational culture to create a harassment free workplace!
This is the second in a two-part series. Click on this link to read part one.
In the first part, we explored the reasons why it’s time for business leaders and HR professionals to take a new approach to prevent workplace harassment. Research shows that traditional anti-harassment training programs have not been effective at preventing workplace harassment and do not affect lasting behavior changes on the part of actual and would-be harassers.
A more effective approach is to change the culture, which includes the behavioral norms and expectations for all employees, in order to create a more constructive organizational culture. The importance of having a more constructive culture cannot be overstated. To begin with, a culture that tolerates bad behavior of any kind is more likely to experience problems with harassment. On the positive side, research shows that an organization with a predominately constructive culture has better business performance and consistently
better business results.
A constructive organizational culture has been proven to improve sustained business performance and profitability.
© 2017 Human Synergistics International.
The construct of organizational culture is a prominent topic these days. There is much written about culture in the business, human resources, and talent management literature. However, what is often ignored, overlooked or glossed over is how to measure culture. Using an accepted and valid culture assessment is important to objectively quantify the current culture and have a base-line measurement to identify both the strengths and the challenges of your culture. A good culture assessment serves as your starting point as well as a comparative yard-stick measurement against “best of breed” organizations. Lastly, and most importantly, the Current State culture assessment has to be held up against the “Preferred” culture that employees and leaders have identified as the ideal culture that would allow them to perform at their best. It is the gaps between the Current State and Preferred cultures that make up the foundation for a culture change initiative.
The culture assessment tool most often used by the Path Forward team is the Organizational Culture Inventory (OCI) from Human Synergistics, International (HS). The suite of assessment tools from HS provides a visual model, called the Circumplex, for developing Constructive styles in individuals, managers, leaders, teams, and organizations. The Circumplex breaks down the behavioral norms proven to drive performance effectiveness according to 12 behaviors or styles. These styles are further grouped according to three general clusters:
The styles are measured by their strength or intensity by how far out they extend from the center of the Circumplex. For the Current State measurements, the extensions represent the degree to which organization members are required to demonstrate those behaviors in order to succeed or be in alignment with the cultural expectations of that organization. For the Preferred Culture, the extensions represent the view of members in terms of the “ideal” culture that would empower them to perform to the best of their ability. The differences between the Current State and Preferred Cultures represents the opportunity for improvement for the organization, both from an organizational “fit” at the employee level and for the overall performance of the organization.
Using these examples; in the Current State Culture (the circumplex on the left), the predominance of the Aggressive/Defensive (red) and Passive/Defensive (green) behaviors indicate the dominate leadership style relies heavily on the Aggressive behaviors (i.e.; a high need for control and power) while employees react by becoming more Passive and complacent (i.e.; a high need for security). When leaders have an expectation to “get things done” with a sense of urgency, it often leads to Aggressive behaviors by people in positions of authority. These Aggressive behaviors, in turn, create an environment where control and power are the dominant force of motivation. Employees then typically respond by being more Passive and complacent, which creates the conditions where harassment is most likely to occur, and least likely to be reported or acted upon when reported.
This type of Aggressive and Passive dynamic can easily create an environment where people in power feel they have the right and privilege to dominate those not in power. When that happens, the result is a culture where victims of harassment are afraid to speak out, and when they do are often punished or experience other types of retribution. This helps to explain part of the reason why studies consistently show that 70-75% of workplace harassment goes unreported. That is why we call this type of profile a “Toxic Culture,” one that is defined by excessive use of fear and power. With this type of culture, sexual harassment training will have little or no impact and most likely will be considered a joke by the participants. The reason is the cultural dissonance that exists when corporate policy and training programs say one thing, but the accepted behaviors are something very different.
Looking at the Preferred Culture (the Circumplex on the right), the Constructive (blue) behaviors are all above the 75th percentile, with the Achievement and Humanistic-Encouraging behaviors close to the 90th percentile. The Aggressive/Defensive (red) behaviors are all reduced to around the middle (the 50th percentile) and the Passive/Defensive (green) behaviors are even lower (around the 25th percentile). The strong Constructive behaviors in the Preferred Culture are all achievement-oriented behaviors and indicate a high-performing organization. We call this type of profile a “Constructive Culture,” one that is defined by high levels of trust and collaboration and sustained business performance.
Transforming an organization’s culture can be a daunting challenge and is often easier said than done. It’s commonly reported that three out of four business transformation initiatives fail, either outright or fail to live up to all the expected outcomes. The literature on this topic is replete with stories and examples of why culture transformation initiatives fail. Rather than focus on the reasons for failure, let’s look at what it takes for a successful culture transformation.
Through experience leading, facilitating, and coaching many transformation initiatives, the Path Forward to Business Transformation team has developed this graphic to visualize the critical components for a transformation initiative to be successful.
Some of the important principles to follow to ensure the success of a change initiative;
1) Articulate the “compelling reason” for the change.
The case for transforming from a “Toxic Culture” to a “Constructive Culture” is very compelling on many levels. Our focus here is on how a shift in culture can help an organization prevent workplace harassment. Other benefits of being a more Constructive Culture include being a more innovative and adaptive organization, improved employee engagement, improved ability to attract and retain top talent, outstanding and respected leaders, and maximized business performance. Lastly, once you start on a culture transformation journey, be sure to apply change management best practices to improve your odds of sustainable success.
If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, please check out the information at the Path Forward to Business Transformation website or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.