Something is wrong with your culture!

culture leadership Aug 17, 2018

Studies are one of those things: you always have to understand the context before drawing conclusions.

I recently stumbled across a study by Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban - two academics from Harvard Business School - who concluded that people in open-plan offices communicate less openly (and more by email instead).

The reason seems clear: people don't want to expose themselves to others with their statements.

Here comes my diagnosis: If you have this problem (that people are afraid to open up to their colleagues), we have a real problem with culture. And open-plan offices simply disclose this (similar to how the reduction of inventories reveals problems in production).

Here are the three root causes if your people are hiding and not communicating openly:

  1. No trust in others. As a leader, you know: if people talk behind the backs of other people, or rather write emails instead of openly addressing problems, we do not have a communication problem, but a problem of trust. No team can deliver top performance without mutual trust. Work on it, preferably with a coach.
  2. No fun. I have experienced this for years (at SAP, one of the best employers in Germany and Switzerland): With fun, you can do twice as much in the same time: Even if you sometimes waste time on jokes and crazy things, you are much more productive in the end. How much fun do your people have at work?
  3. No confidence. Who hides in communication has low self-esteem. You can work on that. This is also the responsibility of the leader. And once again, coaching helps.

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