Pettiness: A veritable roadblock on your company’s way to a great work culture

The first sign of a bad culture in a company is: pettiness.

Yes Pettiness. Big problem because it is mostly left undiagnosed until it’s too late.

Petty gossip, petty opinions, petty cribbing all these are signs of the beginning of a bad culture. Companies must focus on nipping pettiness at the bud rather than focusing on just incorporating rules to blanket the pettiness.

Rules are good. I for one am a great fan of rules. It gives stability and to an extent predictability. But rule without a conscience is as good as having no rules. The strong good intention behind every rule must be solidly backed up by the way it is implemented. Then we won’t have to worry about the loopholes in the rule or fear it being misused.

Coming back to the point of pettiness, I strongly believe that the little things that we tend to ignore or tolerate are the things that come back some day to bite us. Pettiness is one such thing, it has a butterfly effect. One cribber is enough to spoil the morale of an entire team. One petty gossip is enough to demotivate a whole bunch of people. One petty judgment about a person lightly thrown may hurt his ego so bad that it might have a cascading effect on his attitude towards people around him and his work. It’s not the responsibility of a company to mother its employees. But when a company is laying its first blocks of culture, it must remember to handle the pettiness within the blocks of the company i.e. the employees sensitively and promptly. Ignoring or tolerating it is not an option. Judging it is even worse.

In a time when everybody is driven to reach new heights, when everybody is eager to achieve greater things, it is hard to even stop and think about how we really are growing.

  • Are we stepping on somebody else in our hurry to grow?
  • Are we burning bridges with prospective friends and allies?
  • Are we being insensitive to the point of being cruel?
  • And due to our occasional pettiness are we blocking somebody else’s path because we are unable to grow?

These must be some of the things each employee must have in his checklist for the day. Bring some perspective into work. Encourage conscious working. Appreciate good work and most important conscious work. The more good behavior and attitude is encouraged and appreciated the more it is cultivated. With more practice it becomes a habit. That way good culture is automated.

My Top tips for a good culture

  1. Leaders must get trained in conscious working. If they radiate magnanimity and integrity employees are sure to follow suit. Initially it might be to earn brownie points but eventually it’ll be part of the company’s social fiber.
  2. Pettiness is almost always due to dissatisfaction or insecurity. Identify and address the issue immediately. Nip the dissatisfaction at the bud. I do not think letting an employee go solely on grounds of his “so called” attitude problem is a great solution. I say “so called” because somebody’s attitude problem could very well be our perception problem.
  3. Train the management people to handle human resource problems sensitively. More often than not, in start-ups and small companies, the onus of handling Human resource issues falls on the immediate managers than on the HR. In such cases it’s important to equip them with this knowledge and encourage them to use it effectively. They are the real architects of the work culture as they set definite examples by their style of handling issues.
  4. Appreciate and encourage good attitude along with good work.

In a world where employees are considered as resources or assets in line with the laptops of the company, rendering a humane touch when dealing with the employees will go a long way in building a strong and resilient work culture.

Building a good culture is easier said than done. But it’s not impossible; many companies with great culture are proof to that.

So, what do you think is the major challenge in building a good work culture in a new company? Have I missed a really important point? Will be glad to hear it from you, do let me know.

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