Imagine a work environment where you constantly have to interpret what people around you actually think. Constantly having to guess about their intentions and agendas, not knowing the real reasons about taken decisions and where actions are constantly being questioned. The reason for such behavior is the lack of mutual loyalty and a shattered trust between coworkers.

Unfortunately, I have experienced similar situations and can only conclude that this kind of working climate is a complete disaster for the company’s development and a horrible workplace for employees. Too much energy is devoted to interpreting each other instead of focusing on the business and it becomes almost impossible to fulfill the tasks and to achieve set goals.

Recognize this? I can list a dozens of companies where there is such a work environment – unfortunately, it is more common than we think. But I will not single out anyone in this text, instead I´ll will focus on sorting out why such a culture can arise and what you can do about it.

When loyalty does not exists

It sounds strange, but you can build a corporate culture where one openly acts disloyally towards each other and lets the trust between people slowly but surely be destroyed. The reasons are as numerous as the different parties in such a situation, but I can think of two main basic causes that lead to such a culture being able to thrive and grow.

The first reason is that one ends up acting in accordance with the company’s values and principles. If the company values are not stated, people act based on what they think is right for the company, but it does not mean that it is right for everyone else. Therefore, it is important that the company has stated values, these should be used as a compass for decisions and crossroads that arise along the way. Values are the common platform that hopefully everyone in the company can support. If one cannot agree with the company’s values, one ought to apply for another job, to stay is both destructive to the person and the company.

The second reason is how solution-focused they are in the organization and what relation it has to emerging problems. If a problem or error has occurred, and the first action after the mistake is to find the person responsible for the problem (who is responsible?) instead of focusing on solving the problem (how do we solve this?), then you build a corporate culture that is fear-driven. You are focusing finding a scapegoat instead of collecting the troops and together trying to tackle and solve the problem encountered.

If you ask the wrong question when a problem occurs, employees will slowly but surely be afraid to make mistakes, won’t think in new and creative ways, justifying their actions based on established rules, don’t dare to take initiative themselves, feel no responsibility and begin to point to those who fail in order to protect itself. There arises a peculiar survival strategy where you have to attack to defend yourself, a sort of fear-driven culture where you constantly have to look over your shoulder and groups with different values and subcultures arise within the organization. And where you are constantly pointing upwards in the organization for all the decisions that need to be made because you do not want to take any responsibility yourself. Read more about what happens to companies that stops developing and changing.

Humans are loyal to values

I believe that blind loyalty is not possible towards other people; however, I think that humans are always loyal to values and principles. Trust between people occurs when like-minded people get together and can support a common set of values. And as soon as those values change, a conflict of loyalty arises for the parties, should we continue to be loyal to each other, or should we seek the loyalty of other people?

Humans are loyal to values and principles and not to other humans.

Think about who you are loyal to? Why is that? Are you loyal because you always have been, or are you and the person sharing the same values? What if the people change their values, will you remain loyal to them?

Common values bind people together, getting them to listen to each other, seeing each other and allowing them to build relationships. A mutual loyalty begins to gain a foothold and the clearer these values take their expression the more stable the foundation for the relationship will be.

Who is responsible for the corporate culture?

Culture always starts at the top and spreads down in the organization, whether you are 10 or 1,000 employees, the leaders of the company are the ones responsible for a healthy corporate culture existing in a workplace. In contrast, the corporate culture is affected by each individual member of the organization, culture is something living and malleable. But if you want to change a faulty corporate culture, management is always responsible.

Whether you are an employee or owner, loyalty to the company values is the foundation for the company’s success.

I have the privilege to work as an entrepreneur, I start and run companies for a living, this gives me the opportunity to set a corporate culture from scratch. However, I never know how the corporate culture will look like when the company is growing, but I know with certainty that it will change for each person who comes into the company.

How to build mutual loyalty

Honesty and sustainability go hand in hand, they’re best friends. On the opposite side we have dishonesty and the victory of the moment. But as I have pointed out earlier, entrepreneurship and company building is a marathon and not a sprint race. If you always are honest and resolving conflicts that arise along the way, time is your friend, you will over time retain the loyalty and gain the trust of your employees.

But if you’re not honest with yourself and others, if you have intentions that you keep for yourself and own agendas for your own benefit, you will eventually be revealed. Time is your enemy.

If you have experienced losing confidence in a person, you know how hard it is to build up that loyalty again. It’s a long road to mutual loyalty.

Starting to communicate, for real, open and honest, can of course solve much. Taking responsibility only for oneself and talking about ones values and what one’s personal motivations are. The first step for all parties is to take the decision that the company’s needs and interests must come before the individual and that everyone gathers around a higher purpose, a Why. Only then can you begin to build loyalty again and make sure that loyalty is in the stated values.

Resolve any conflicts that are on the table and do not leave anything hanging in the air. One may not agree on everything, but we can at least agree to leave it behind and look ahead, towards the common goal.

Test your company culture

Do you dare to find out if your organization is acting in good faith towards each other and if there is confidence among your employees? Then do the following test – when the next problem in your company arises, be sensitive about how the organization solves the problem, is the focus on solving the problem or are you focusing on finding a scapegoat? This is an easy way to measure the temperature of your corporate culture.

Do it right from the start

To do right from the start is of course always the easiest way of doing things, recruitment is such a tremendously important part of a company’s development, the right employees is one of the most important keys to success as a company, much more important than the product and the customers.

Finaly, you have to be loyal to the company’s values, making sure that a mutual respect and loyalty exists between everyone, regardless of role and position in the company, it is everyone’s responsibility to build the mutual trust required to build a successful company.

Those who understand it will win in the end, as a marathon takes a long time to finish.

Photo from unsplash.com

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