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Flipping a Toxic Work Culture Series: Identifying your Organization's Culture-Espoused Values

Last week, CPR initiated a new series titled" Flipping a Toxic Work Culture." CPR recommends that the first step to combating a toxic environment is identifying your organization's culture (OC). For a small business, your OC may be likened to your very own personality. This series follows the research of Dr. Edgar Schein, a noted professor and scholar in organization management. Last week's post also highlighted one of three elements linked to Dr. Schein's belief in OC: artifacts. If you have not read last week's post, be sure to do so before continuing. This series will be rolled out in baby steps so that you, the small business owner, can follow along without getting lost amidst organizational management terms. Today's post will spotlight espoused values.

Before moving forward, one must understand that there is a clear difference between culture and values. While organization elements impact businesses, according to Dr. Edgar Schein, the organization culture is the umbrella for the iceberg model, with the second layer categorized as espoused values. You will likely understand a company's value by reading its mission and vision statements. Unbeknownst to some leaders, your company's culture may not necessarily align with the values. Hence, checking in and taking the pulse within your organization is essential. In approximately 90% of organizations, policies are not adhered to. As the leader, you must ask the question why? The answer links to the disconnect between your culture and value, or the desired state (policy) are not equivalent to the current state (employees' behavior or actions).

According to Wikipedia,

"espoused values are the organization's stated values and rules of behavior. It is how the members represent the organization to themselves and others. This is often expressed in official philosophies and public statements of identity. It can sometimes often be a projection of what the members hope to become for the future."

A company's values are the guiding principles that inform its decisions, actions, and behaviors. Many companies establish core values to inform leadership, employees, and customers about their beliefs, commitments, and priorities. While values can directly impact a company's culture because culture is often an expression of its values, it is also noted that some organizations miss the mark where the espoused values differ from the organization's identified culture. This lends to well-written documents and statements not aligning with an organization's culture. Case in point: my prior Corporate experience had beautifully written policies and value statements in different colors. Simultaneously, frequent reports of bullying, harassment, and attempted suicide were reported in 2020. There was also an incident in 2021 when one member of leadership walked into an office to boast and own their part in a colleague being admitted to the hospital. Now, that's beyond toxic.

Most companies ascribe to a pragmatic culture about getting the work done. There should be no discussion about empathy, sympathy, kinder and gentler, or self-awareness and reflection. Ignoring the problem only allows the issue to fester and grow into an uncontrollable situation. So, get in front of it. According to Dr. Schein, in the 21st century, regardless of the industry, the pragmatic culture "is working less and less." As a consultant, my job is building relationships, edifying leaders, and empowering employees. It just commences with earning your client's trust and tackling issues that small business owners face daily, including fostering a toxic work environment.

Warm Regards,


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