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Culture exists whether you are managing it or not.

Most of our clients come to us when the culture has become negative, and our job is to help clients move to a more positive place while teaching them how to continue to build in a positive direction long after we’re gone.

We thought we’d just go ahead and get real about the process, in case you were interested…

PHASE 1. DISENGAGED & DEMORALIZED

At this stage, employees believe they are not valued and so they are disengaged. Burnout, poor management, harassment or bullying, or lack of direction are all examples of contributors. Sadly, many organizations have no idea they are in this stage, and organizations who do often attempt to resolve the problem with training and setting rules.

PHASE 2. CATALYST EVENT

If an organization hasn’t yet recognized a problem, they will when the “big event” occurs. This event is often what drives our clients to us, now that a hostile work environment complaint has been filed, for example.

Many times, HR has been trying to convince the CEO to make changes long before the “big event”, but unfortunately sometimes CEO’s don’t see the value in “people initiatives” because the ROI can be elusive. Here is a worksheet we made to help you with that.

PHASE 3. ADDRESS SYMPTOMS (BUT NOT ROOT CAUSE)

Now that something has happened, leaders start trying to figure out what to do next, and may be feeling confused by the “big event” if they were in Stage 1 without knowing it. Leaderships’ confusion causes confusion for employees, because they knew there were problems the whole time but likely felt unable to report them given the culture.

Lost on what to do, many organizations offer training. But without a culture to support the learning objectives, training will have minimal impact that won’t last very long.

Some organizations will just keep trudging forward, treating the “big event” as a one-time thing – but we have noticed that one employee’s story is more often than not many other peoples’ stories too.

PHASE 4. GAME TIME

The organizations who choose not to go back to Phase 1, and instead make changes, are ready to take the first steps towards culture change. Our work starts with an assessment so we can understand what happened and why, and create an action plan focused on solving what we learned.

At this point, leadership has to take responsibility for where the organization is and promise to do whatever it can to make it better. Only then can everyone in the organization shift their focus to strategic design of culture. At this stage, it’s about figuring out the vision for the future, and creating steps to get there.

PHASE 5. KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON

Culture change is a long process, because it’s about removing hold habits and instilling new ones, creating new processes, and training people to act “correctly” in a new culture.

Culture change is a series of small and big steps, one after the other, and so it may take a while to feel change. Until it is felt, people may not believe in the change or that it’s making any positive difference for them. We often find that after a year, our client’s assessment scores have gone up, but they still have a lot of work to do. As long as they keep on keepin’ on, they will get there.

PHASE 6. THE NEW WAY

This is the never-ending stage. Culture can never be ignored, and should be part of the strategic plan, right in there with growth and revenue goals.

Culture is a living breathing thing that ebbs and flows, and there must always be people in charge of keeping it on course. We always recommend a team of employees with a few managers and leaders sprinkled in, so that the entire organization is represented.

Culture change can be intimidating. It can be messy and emotional, ugly and sad, but positive and fun, energizing and fantastic.

The journey is worth it, because I promise you, right now in these crazy times, your employees are vying, absolutely dying, for their workplace to be a happy, healthy and safe place to work. Provide that, and you have changed their world.

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Catherine Mattice Zundel

About Catherine Mattice Zundel

Catherine Mattice Zundel, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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