Mandated Behavior Culture Vs Influenced Behavior Culture

What value does a healthy culture have within a company? For me, culture has always been a shortcut for good behavior. If I foster a healthy culture, my team shouldn’t have to ask me how to behave, the culture should inform good behavior that is critical to the success of the company. But, unfortunately, that’s not how all companies attempt to foster good culture. Let’s talk about how you can identify the companies that get this critical aspect of culture wrong so you can avoid the mistake of working for them.

Conflating mandated behavior with influenced behavior

When a company mandates that employees perform a certain behavior to fit in, it’s a clear sign that they are trying to foster culture within their company through the act of mandated rote behavior. You should be wary of such companies that define their culture through such mandatory activities for their employees. “We have a Foosball tournaments every Thursday, and it’s required that all employees participate.” That isn’t a statement of good culture, it’s a warning sign that they don’t understand the difference between mandated behavior and Influenced behavior. They’re taking an activity that is meant to be fun and requiring participation. There are bound to be people within the company who don’t like foosball (I’d be one of those people) but feel compelled to play along because they want to fit in.

What you should be looking for are companies that define their culture through influenced behavior. “We bought a foosball table because many of our employees enjoy playing the game during their down time.”

This kind of behavior is far better for a healthy culture. When you see a company encouraging a culture that allows people to use their downtime or unproductive time to voluntarily play a game it sends a completely different signal to everyone.

The difference is subtle, but I can’t emphasize this enough. You do not want to work for a company that mandates behavior unless that behavior is directly related to the profitability of the company. So, in my previous example, it would be entirely acceptable to require you to play Foosball every Thursday if you were, in fact, a member of a Foosball team. Everyone else should just stop buying Foosball tables.


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