Why you can’t change a workplace culture

by | Feb 19, 2020


I attended a networking event this morning and, as is the whole purpose of these things, I got chatting with a guy who I’d never met before.  When I explained what I did, I was taken aback by how totally dismissive he was. ‘I don’t envy you’, he said, ‘You can’t change a company’s culture.  If it’s not the leaders, it’s the employees affecting it and dragging it down.’ We engaged in some further discussion but I realised his mindset wasn’t going to be open to my thoughts and experiences and soon felt the need to find some positivity in the room (and a coffee) and made my excuses.

Yet on reflection, this chap is right. 

You can’t change something you don’t believe in. 

You can’t change if you don’t realise you can – if the awareness and knowledge that change is possible aren’t there.  You can’t change if your vision of change isn’t clear. Or if you don’t set intentions to change and take action towards those intentions.  You can’t change if you don’t know WHY you want to change. And you won’t change if you don’t want to. If any of these conditions exist in your workplace then, I agree, culture change will be impossible.

But what if you knew that there is a way to change your culture for the better?  And that the fundamentals of doing so are simple and don’t cost the earth.  

We see incredible change all around us and its inspiring the way we can overcome the seemingly impossible.  A friend who has run a marathon for the first time. A double amputee who gets back in his car and claims a Formula 3 race win.  A colleague who has lost stones in weight. A woman who has found the courage to leave a toxic marriage. Someone who has battled cancer and outlived medical predictions.  A company who has turned its misfortunes around and created a positive culture which attracts talent, gets rave Glassdoor reviews, has very happy customers and whose reputation is one to aspire to.  Culture change IS possible. I have seen it with my own eyes and read many inspiring stories of companies changing for the better (think Xerox and Netflix for starters).

My belief (and knowledge, in fact) is that you CAN change a company culture.  You can change anything if you put your mind to it. If you’re clear on what you do want and envisage how the future looks and feels, you absolutely can take steps forward and change. 


My equation for culture change is this:

Knowledge + reason for change + clear vision + desire to improve + aligned, consistent action = culture change

So thinking about this morning’s interaction both I and the cynical chap are right.  But I know which view I’ll live by.

If your business needs a shift or shake-up or you’d like to explore how I can help you design a great workplace culture or improve it, then do get in touch

I’ll bring the knowledge and the framework … if you bring the desire and commitment to change.

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